The government is under no obligation to offer heterosexual couples civil partnerships, a High Court Judge ruled in a test case that saw an opposite-sex couple lose their fight for equality. Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who want to have a civil partnership as neither believes in traditional marriage, were told it was not unlawful to deny them access to the union, currently only available to same-sex couples.
Presiding over a 29 January judicial review claim brought by the couple, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE is reported by the Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships as stating: "Just as the UK was under no obligation to extend marriage to same-sex couples, it has never been under an obligation to extend civil partnership to heterosexual couples."
She added: "The denial of a further means of formal recognition which is open to same-sex couples does not amount to unlawful state interference with the claimants' right to family life or private life, any more than the denial of marriage to same-sex couples did prior to the enactment of the 2013 Act."
More than 36,000 people have written to the minister for Women and Equalities to ask for civil partnerships to be offered to opposite-sex, as well as same-sex, couples. Steinfeld and Keidan were previously turned away from Chelsea Town Hall registry office in October 2015 when they attempted to have a civil partnership ceremony.
Steinfeld told the campaign: "We made this claim because the UK Government is barring us, and many thousands of opposite-sex couples like us, from the choice of forming a civil partnership, and we want this to change. Personally, we wish to form a civil partnership because that captures the essence of our relationship and values. Civil partnerships are a modern social institution conferring almost identical legal rights and responsibilities as marriage, but without its history and social expectations.
"We don't think there is sufficient justification for stopping us or other opposite-sex couples from forming civil partnerships. Unfortunately, the judge has concluded otherwise. We are seeking permission to appeal her decision on behalf of ourselves and the more than 36,000 people who signed our petition on Change.org calling for civil partnership equality."
The ruling comes as parliament hears the second reading of a private member's bill proposing a change in the Civil Partnership Act to accommodate heterosexual couples on Friday (29 January). Ava Lee, campaign manager of the Equal Civil Partnership campaign, said: "We are disappointed by the judgment from the High Court today, however our campaign for equal civil partnerships will continue.
"Civil partnerships are an institution that already exists, and offer the same legal protections afforded to married couples to those couples who feel that marriage is not for them. Over 36,000 people have written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, asking her to open up civil partnerships.
"We hope that following the judicial review, the government will reconsider its position on civil partnerships and offer the 3 million cohabiting couples in the UK an additional option for celebrating and cementing their relationships, and provide their 1.9 million dependent children with the same level of security offered to the children of married parents."