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Civil partnerships for opposite sex couples?

Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld have this week been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court in their ongoing legal battle for civil partnerships to be made available to opposite sex couples.

Mr Keidan, 40, and Ms Steinfeld, 36, have been involved in the court proceedings since January 2016. The couple hope to be able to formalise their relationship in the form of a civil partnership (as opposed to a marriage) in the near future.

Under the current law, civil partnerships are only available to same sex couples. Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 as a means of providing broadly equivalent legal protection for same sex couples as opposite sex couples have under a marriage. Since 13 March 2014, same sex couples have also been able to marry and couples in existing civil partnerships have had the option of converting their civil partnership into a same sex marriage.

Critics of the existing law argue that civil partnerships offer a modern, 21st century alternative to marriage, and should therefore be an option for all couples on the basis of equality. They claim that marriage as an institution is outdated. This is in some part borne out by the decline in marriage and the steady increase in the number of couples living together.

The courts have so far rejected Mr Keidan and Ms Steinfeld’s arguments, but they will now be reconsidered by the Supreme Court.

Outside of the courtroom the couple are active campaigners, and their change.org petition for civil partnership equality has 78,671 supporters at the time of writing.

At a time when the hard-won rights of same sex couples will be celebrated this weekend at Manchester’s Pride Festival, it remains to be seen whether a law originally enacted for same sex couples may be extended to benefit opposite sex couples.

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AUTHOR: Kim Aucott