In an interesting case that came before the High Court recently, a heterosexual couple (Miss Steinfield and Mr Keidan) failed in an attempt to challenge the ban on heterosexual couples entering into a Civil Partnership. Their claim was founded on the basis that it breached their right to a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case exposed a legal anomaly of which some may be unaware.
Civil Partnerships were introduced in 2004 to allow same-sex couples to obtain essentially the same rights and responsibilities as in a Civil Marriage and to be able to make claims, similar to those that heterosexual couples can make in divorce proceedings, if the relationship breaks down.
In 2013 same-sex marriage was legalised, although Civil Partnerships remained. This created a legal anomaly whereby same-sex couples have the choice of Marriage or Civil Partnership but a for a heterosexual couple, marriage is the only option. This couple rejected marriage as being (in their words) “patriarchal” and issued legal proceedings for breach of their human rights. In a decision that many will consider to be surprising the High Court rejected their claim. It seems probable that the decision will be the subject of an appeal so the issue may not finally have been settled.
Whilst few of our clients are likely to be affected by the issues that this case raises it is an interesting example of the difficulty in maintaining a balance between the rights of different sectors of society.