LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the ban on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is “incompatible” with human rights laws — a decision supporters hope will pave the way for such unions.
Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, and Charles Keidan, 41, who say they wanted to avoid the “patriarchal baggage” of marriage, argued that they face discrimination because only same-sex couples are eligible for civil partnerships.
Britain’s government has argued it needs time to study the impact of gay marriage on civil partnerships before deciding whether to extend them to everyone, abolish them or phase them out.
Justice Brian Kerr wrote that the government position “cannot be characterized as a legitimate aim.”
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“Today we are a step closer to opening civil partnerships to all, a measure that would be fair, popular and good for families and children across the country,” Steinfeld said.
Gay couples in Britain have been able to form civil partnerships since 2005, giving them the same legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual married partners. Same-sex marriage became legal in 2014.
Wednesday’s decision does not automatically change the law, but Emma Willing, a managing associate at the law firm, Mishcon de Reya, said the ruling will pressure the government to either extend civil partnership to heterosexual couples or to abolish such partnerships.
“In the event that the government did not introduce remedial legislation to amend the incompatible law, it would be open to Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights,” she said.