Court says ban on straight civil partnerships could be against human rights law

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A straight couple have lost their battle for heterosexual civil partnerships.

Rebecca Steinfeld and partner Chris Keidan applied for a civil partnership in 2014 but were turned down, as they are only open to same-sex couples.

The Court of Appeal has now rejected their right to enter into a civil partnership on the grounds that they are only open to same-sex couples, a criteria this couple does not meet.

The judges voted by a narrow two to one to reject their appeal.

Although they ruled against the couple, all three judges, Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Briggs and Lord Justice Beatson, argued the discrimination against heterosexual couples should not last indefinitely.

They also all agreed that the ban constitutes a potential violation of the appellants’ human rights under article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken with article eight (right to respect for private and family life) of the European convention on human rights.

Louise Whitfield, from law firm Deighton Peirce Glynn who represented the couple, said: “This is very frustrating. It was such a narrow win for the government.

“They all agreed that the government was living on borrowed time and that there had been a potential violation of their rights.

“Lady Justice Arden said that the government had run out of time already. The other two judges, however, allowed the government a bit more time to consider the issue.”

A PinkNews Twitter poll has shown strong support for opening up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples, with over 60% in favour at the time of writing.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “This is a defeat for love and equality. It will be a huge disappointment to the thousands of heterosexual couples who want to have a civil partnership.

The court has declined to enforce the principle that in a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law.”

The couple have previously said they may go to the European Court of Human Rights.

Outside the court, Keidan and Steinfeld said: “We are deeply disappointed by the ruling and very sorry to not be able to share good news, but there’s so much in the decision that gives us reason to be positive and keep going.”

Keidan added: “We are determined to go on with our battle. There are 3 million same-sex couples who are cohabiting in this country. We want to challenge this ruling in the supreme court but we hope it won’t be necessary. Defeat is hard to accept today but it gives us a chance to regroup and move on. There’s cross-party support for us now.”

More than 72,000 have signed the couple’s petition to change the law.

There has been some progress since they last petitioned the government.

Earlier this month, the first civil partnership between a man and woman occurred on the Isle of Man, between Claire Beale and Martin Loat.

They told the BBC the UK should “follow the Isle of Man’s lead and end discrimination against heterosexuals seeking civil partnerships”.

In the UK, marriage between people of the same sex is legal everywhere except Northern Ireland.

Civil partnerships are legal for same sex couples but not for straight couples, with the recent exception of the Isle of Man, which is a crown dependency.

Former equalities minister Baroness Featherstone previously revealed on PinkNews that she had pushed for straight civil partnerships alongside same-sex marriage. However David Cameron reportedly struck down the proposal.