The news that Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan intend to take their battle for the right to form a civil partnership to the Supreme Court is hardly surprising. Following the close shave of this week’s Court of Appeal decision, they remain absolutely determined to fight for the personal freedom to choose how to define their relationship and for a principle which potentially affects millions of other unmarried couples in the UK.
I thoroughly support their stance – that the ability to choose between marriage and civil partnership should not be determined by sexual orientation.
Civil partnerships started out in some ways as the government’s ‘half-way house’ on the road to legalising gay marriage. But they offer an important alternative for couples who want to publicly declare their love and commitment without having to compromise their views on marriage as an institution with a history of sexism and homophobia.
The Court of Appeal recognised the human rights violation inherent in the current law. Surely the government’s current policy of ‘wait and see’ is now unsustainable.
The second reading of Tim Loughton’s private member’s bill is due to take place on 24 March and has cross-party support.
Yes, the number of civil partnerships fell significantly after gay marriage became legal. However, in 2015 there were still 861 couples who chose civil partnerships over marriage. There is an increasing demand for mixed-sex civil partnerships as well – over 70,000 people have now signed the petition in Rebecca and Charles’ campaign.
As lawyers we all know there is no such thing as common law marriage. By simply extending civil partnerships to all, the government would not only end the current discrimination but also offer unmarried and cohabiting families access to the same legal protection on death or separation that is available to married couples.
This would be an easy win for Theresa May and her promises to give people more control over their own lives and make the country work for everyone.
Lauren Evans, family lawyer, Kingsley Napley LLP, London EC1