In the latest quest for equality, Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have succeeded in obtaining permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Permission was granted on 22 August 2017 and the decision marks a significant step for the couple who will be asking the Supreme Court to consider whether heterosexual couples should be given the right to enter into a civil partnership should they wish to do so.
The first civil partnerships of a same-sex couples in England and Wales were formed on 21 December 2005 following the enactment of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Some 9 years later, those in a civil partnership were then permitted to convert their civil partnership into marriage by virtue of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which allowed conversions to take place from 10 December 2014. By contrast, the right to enter into a civil partnership was never extended to opposite-sex couples who have the option of marriage only. The unequal treatment of heterosexual couples in this respect has provoked much controversy and ultimately led Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan to challenge the UK Government’s position stating that it was “incompatible with equality law”.
The parties’ case was first rejected by the High Court in January 2016. They later lost their appeal in the Court of Appeal in February 2017. If the Supreme Court ultimately overturns the earlier decisions, the ruling will signify a momentous step in aligning the rights of opposite-sex couples with those of same-sex couples as regards the right to enter into a secular partnership.
Further comment will be available following the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in this case.