Supreme Court overturns partnership discrimination

In a unanimous verdict this morning the UK’s Supreme Court has declared the rules that make Civil Partnership only open to same-sex couples unlawful. They have found the the Civil Partnership Act 2004 incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as it only extends the right to partnership recognition to same-sex couples.

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld have been making their way through the courts putting a case arguing that they are being discriminated against on the grounds of sex, as a same-sex couple would be allowed the choice of marriage or civil partnership.

Mixed-sex civil partnerships were in the original civil partnership bill more than ten years ago, but were removed by the then Labour government before pressing ahead with the legislation. During the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition, the Liberals’ proposal for marriage and civil partnership to be opened up regardless of gender lost its civil partnership reforms as neither Labour nor Conservative groups in Parliament would add their support.

Despite legal and social differences between marriage and civil partnership, for some time this situation was defended as constituted equality in a ‘separate but similar’ form.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Charles and Rebecca said: “We believe our legal team has made an overwhelming argument but whatever the outcome on all the substantive issues the Government has already conceded that the current inequality cannot continue.”

Former equalities minister Baroness Featherstone, who brought the same-sex partnership bill forward for England and Wales, commented in March that “They’ve already had a review and a consultation, and everyone has come back saying ‘yes, let it happen’ but nothing does. This is because the government does not really want it to happen. I think that this case will be taken to the Supreme Court. I just wish people would do things themselves in a timely manner, not wait to be forced by law. It’s bloody stupid!”

Now the court has ruled in their favour Charles and Rebecca are expected to take the ruling direct to Penny Mordaunt MP, who as government minister would need to take reform forward.

Civil Partnerships were expected by many to wither away as a form of partnership recognition once marriage was opened up to same-sex couples, but there is still demand for them – and in Northern Ireland they are still the only option for same-sex couples due to the DUP’s actions in the Stormont Assembly.