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Landmark Ruling: Opposite-sex Couples Options Opened

5 Jul 2018


Heterosexual couple Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41 (the appellants), have won the right to enter a civil partnership instead of getting married after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. This ruling overturns a previous judgement made by the Court of Appeal, which rejected the couple's claim, in February of last year.


The appeal considered whether the bar on different-sex couples entering into civil partnerships breaches the appellants’ rights under Article 14 together with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.


They sought judicial review of the Secretary of State for the International Development’s continuing decision not to make changes to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) to allow different-sex couples to enter in civil partnerships. After a four-year battle, the Supreme Court has today unanimously allowed the appeal and made a declaration that sections 1 and 3 of CPA (to the extent that they preclude a different sex couple from entering into a civil partnership) are incompatible with Article 14 of ECHR taken in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention.


The Current Law


Currently, the CPA only allows same-sex couples. This Act states that such partnerships will provide legal rights and obligations to couples regarding children, property and pensions would be available to 'two people of the same sex'.


It was passed after gay rights campaigners demanded legal recognition for unions between same-sex couples. Furthermore, in 2013 same-sex marriage was legalised, in a landmark ruling, giving gay couples the right to marriage or a civil partnership. Until this ruling by the Supreme Court, there was no equivalent option for heterosexual couples.


Cause for Change


The appellants have deep-rooted ideological objections to marriage based upon what they consider to be its historically patriarchal nature. They wish instead to enter into a civil partnership, which they consider would reflect their values and give due recognition to the equal nature of their relationship.


Appellant Mr Keidan also argued:


"There are 3.3million cohabiting couples in the UK, we are the fastest growing family type. Many want legal and financial security but cannot have this because in the eyes of the law they are not married. The law and government needs to catch up with family life in 2018."


Today’s decision consequently puts pressure on the government to amend the CPA so that it is inclusive of everyone.


Available Options


Entering into a Civil Partnerships affords legal and financial protection for both parties in the event of a relationship ending as similarly to marriage. However, a Civil Partnership is free of the religious connotations of marriage and some individuals object to marriage as an institution and its associations with property and patriarchy. A Civil Partnership may thus appear more appealing in the later circumstances.


Furthermore, some cohabiting couples may not want to enter a Marriage or a Civil Partnership and in this case a Cohabitation Agreement may be sufficient to determine personal and financial issues.


If you are considering a Cohabitation Agreement or have any issues in relation to a Marriage or Civil Partnership, please do not hesitate to contact Christine McVay, Head of the Family Law department at Short Richardson & Forth Solicitors on 0191232 0283 or at

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Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited is a private limited company constituted and run in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006. The term “partner” has been used to denote individual senior solicitors employed by Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited.