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'Today's decision is surprising because the extension of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would have achieved equality and non-discrimination.
I anticipate Steinfield and Keidan will consider taking their case to Europe on the question of whether the fact that civil partnership is not open to opposite-sex couples is discriminatory and a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Policy makers should be wary of the ramifications of this case being taken to Europe. They may wish to consider the abolition of civil partnerships completely, since the original intention was to serve same-sex couples who were unable to obtain equivalent rights to opposite-sex couples, as they were unable to marry. Since the enactment of same-sex marriage, the retention of civil partnerships is no longer a necessity. However, same sex couples who have chosen not to convert their partnership to civil marriage should be allowed to remain in civil partnerships if they so choose.
The question of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples would not however protect people left vulnerable under the current law where there are no specific cohabitation family law remedies, because those who are in a stronger position financially retain the option not to marry or enter into civil partnerships.
We must continue to advocate for change to protect people left vulnerable under the current law, many of whom are often women with children who have no financial provision, because their long term partners will not or cannot marry them. Only legislative cohabitation reform can achieve this aim.'
'This case claimed that by excluding heterosexual couples from the right to enter into a Civil Partnership, they are being discriminated against in accordance with European law. This was a bold attempt to see how far judges can be pressed to extend law by precedent rather than waiting for Parliament to enact something more substantive.
Few expected the Court of Appeal to rule in favour of extending Civil Partnerships in this way despite thousands of members of the public having petitioned for such a change. While law tends to follow social change, family law in 2017 seems oddly out of kilter with what society has chosen to do. Many same sex couples welcomed the introduction of civil partnership but once that was replaced with same sex marriage, Civil Partnerships began to wane.
It is unusual for a test case on discrimination to be taken by a majority group in this way. Judges have been heavily criticised on how they have applied and interpreted statute but it is for Parliament to change law at such a fundamental level.
In the absence of any new body of law that protects cohabitants rights on property, finances and children, heterosexual couples who do not wish to marry can be left vulnerable.'
Responding to the decision, Nigel Shepherd, chair of Resolution, said:
'It is understandable that some couples are attracted to a form of registered partnership that is not marriage, but which will give them similar protection to marriage.
That said, from a purely legal perspective, it makes little sense to retain civil partnership. But, if the option of civil partnerships for same sex couples is to continue to be retained, then civil partnerships must also be available to opposite sex couples in order to avoid discrimination. We agree that there is a pressing need for the government to address this issue.
As family lawyers committed to the constructive resolution of issues on family breakdown, we see that the real injustice is the lack of legal rights for cohabiting couples – the fastest growing household type in the country. Our lawmakers must also look at introducing safety net legislation that will provide protection and fair outcomes when cohabiting couples separate.'