New Supreme Court judgment


A recent judgement may open the door to civil partnership agreements being an option for people of opposite sexes.

In June 2018, the Supreme Court heard an appeal against different-sex couples being unable to legally enter into a civil partnership. The appeal looked at whether the ban on different-sex couples entering into civil partnerships breached the human rights of the people who brought the appeal to court (the appellants) Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan. The appellants used Article 14 together with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to support their appeal.

Previously, under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA), two people of the same sex were given the right to enter into a civil partnership, but this right has not been extended to couples of different sexes. Following on from the CPA, the Marriage (Same Sex couples) Act 2013 (MSSCA) went further and allowed same sex couples to be legally married.

The CPA stayed in force after the new laws were introduced, effectively giving same sex couples the right to formalise their partnership without actually marrying if they chose to.

This choice is not yet available to different-sex couples. 

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan are a different-sex couple in a committed long-term relationship, which they want to make formal. They have objections to the idea of being married as they consider marriage to be historically patriarchal, and want to enter into a civil partnership, as this better reflects their personal values. They appealed to the court for a judicial review of the decision not to change the CPA to allow different-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships too.

The Supreme Court clearly agreed with their case as it unanimously allowed the appeal to go ahead, and also declared 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.

How long this ruling takes to change the law and allow different sex couples to become civil partners remains to be seen but Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have certainly paved the way for it.