A heterosexual couple have won their legal bid for the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, from London.
The court said the Civil Partnership Act 2004 – which only applies to same-sex couples – is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Steinfeld said she hoped the government does the “right thing” and extends civil partnerships to all.
“We are feeling elated,” she told the BBC outside court. “But at the same time we are feeling frustrated the government has wasted taxpayers’ money in fighting what the judges’ have called a blatant inequality.”
The judgment does not oblige government to change the law, although it does make it more likely that the government will now act, the BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman explained.
In a civil partnership, a couple is entitled to the same legal treatment in terms of inheritance, tax, pensions and next-of-kin arrangements as marriage.
The couple, who met in 2010 and have two children, said the “legacy of marriage” which “treated women as property for centuries” was not an option for them.
“We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership – a modern, symmetrical institution – sets the best example for them,” they explained.
Since March 2014, same sex-couples can choose whether to enter a civil partnership or to marry. This has not been possible for mixed-sex couples, which led Steinfeld and Keidan to argue that the law was discriminatory.
This ruling overturns a previous judgment made by the Court of Appeal, which rejected the couple’s claim in February of last year.
What does a civil partnership offer?
- Legal and financial protection for both parties in the event of the relationship ending
- It is free of the religious connotations of marriage
- Some object to marriage as an institution and its associations with property and patriarchy
The judges ruled that current UK law was “incompatible” with human rights laws on discrimination and the right to a private and family life.
Announcing the court’s decision, Lord Kerr said the government did not seek to justify the difference in treatment between same-sex and different sex couples.
“To the contrary, it accepts that the difference cannot be justified,” he said.
LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the ruling a “victory for love and equality”.
“It was never fair that same-sex couples had two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners had only one option, marriage,” he said. (BBC)