The solicitor representing a man and a woman battling for the right to choose to enter a civil partnership has hailed what she describes as a 'significant step' in the journey for equal rights.
The Supreme Court has granted Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan permission to take their case to the highest UK court.
The couple's solicitor, Louise Whitfield, a partner at London and Bristol firm Deighton Pierce Glynn, said today: 'This is a very significant achievement for my clients as the Supreme Court only gives permission for a very small number of cases each year - those that are the most important for the court to consider.
'It is another significant step in the journey to achieve equal civil partnerships for all, and the court's decision to grant permission recognises the great public importance of this issue.'
The Court of Appeal, in February, dismissed Steinfeld and Keidan's appeal over an earlier High Court decision refusing them judicial review of the education secretary’s decision not to, at this stage, propose any change to the bar on opposite-sex couples entering into a civil partnership.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2015, allowing opposite-sex couples to enter a civil partnership, had a second reading in January, but the debate was adjourned until May. The bill has subsequently fallen, parliament's website states that 'no further action will be taken', after the prime minister's decision to call a general election in June.
A blog posted on Deighton Pierce Glynn's website in February stated that an appeal to the Supreme Court would cost at least £20,000. Steinfeld and Keidan have yet to reach their required target but Whifield told the Gazette they have received 'a lot of support so far and are reasonably optimistic'.
Responding to today's news, Graeme Fraser, a partner in the family department at London firm Hunters, said the Supreme Court may well decide as a matter of equality that heterosexual couples should have the right to register formal civil partnerships.
However, Fraser said the case should not detract from the 'more pressing issue': providing protection and support through legislative reform to cohabitants left financially vulnerable when a relationship breaks down, particularly those left financially disadvantaged by the relationship to care for children.