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UK court rules civil partnerships only for same sex couples

A British heterosexual couple have lost a court bid to be able to enter into a civil partnership after judges upheld a ruling that only same sex couples are eligibe for such unions.

world Updated: Feb 21, 2017 19:07 IST
Rebecca Steinfeld (centre left), and her partner Charles Keidan (centre right), address the media in London on February 21, 2017 after they lost their case at the Court of Appeal for the right to enter into a civil partnership. Keidan and Steinfeld, both academics who live in London, argued that civil partnerships only being available to same sex couples was incompatible with equality law.
Rebecca Steinfeld (centre left), and her partner Charles Keidan (centre right), address the media in London on February 21, 2017 after they lost their case at the Court of Appeal for the right to enter into a civil partnership. Keidan and Steinfeld, both academics who live in London, argued that civil partnerships only being available to same sex couples was incompatible with equality law.(AFP)

A heterosexual British couple who object to what they call the patriarchal nature of marriage narrowly lost a court bid on Tuesday to be able to enter into a civil partnership after judges upheld a ruling that such unions were only eligible to those of the same sex.

Civil partnerships were introduced in Britain in 2004, giving gay couples similar legal rights to those enjoyed by married heterosexuals.

Since 2014, same-sex marriage has also been legal in England, Wales and Scotland, meaning gay couples could choose to get married or enter into a civil partnership.

Rebecca Steinfeld, 35, and her partner Charles Keidan, 40, who have a child, said that meant the law discriminated against heterosexuals like them who wanted a civil partnership rather than to be married.

The couple say they have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage based upon what they consider to be its historically patriarchal nature.

Last January, London’s High Court rejected their claim saying the law specified that civil partnerships were only for people of the same sex, and on Tuesday that ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The judges accepted there was a potential breach of the couple’s human rights but said by a two-to-one majority the government should be allowed more time to assess whether civil partnerships should be extended or perhaps even phased out.

“We lost so narrowly that there’s everything to fight for,” Steinfeld told reporters outside the court. “All three of the judges agreed that we were being treated differently because of our sexual orientation and that this impacts are family and private life.”

Keidan said there were more than three million mixed-sex couples living together with two million dependent children.

“These couple lack legal and financial security and I think many would agree that this isn’t right,” he said. “None of us should be denied recognition or protection because marriage isn’t right for us.”

He said they would challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in Britain, unless the government indicated it would change the existing law.