A heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership rather than marry have lost a High Court challenge.
Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, from London, were told in 2014 that they could not enter into a civil partnership because they were not of the same sex, as the law requires.
They brought a legal challenge, saying the law discriminated against them.
But Mrs Justice Andrews dismissed their claim for judicial review. The couple have said they intend to appeal.
Ms Steinfeld, 34, and Mr Keidan, 39, said they wanted to commit to each other in a civil partnership as it “focuses on equality” and did not carry the patriarchal history and associations of marriage.
However, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requires that partners be “two people of the same sex”. It grants gay couples legal rights similar to those given to married couples.
The law applies throughout the UK – although there are different rules for marriage and civil partnerships in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The introduction of same-sex marriage – which became legal in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014 – has since given gay couples a choice between that and civil partnership.
‘Right this wrong’
Ms Steinfeld and Mr Keidan argued that, as a heterosexual couple, they did not have the same choice as gay couples and were therefore discriminated against.
Current legislation was “incompatible” with their right to a private and family life, they said.
The government argued that civil marriage was an institution that protected the core values of family life and was entirely egalitarian, and that where the objection was ideological there was no infringement of rights.
Speaking after the ruling, Ms Steinfeld said the government was “barring us, and many thousands of opposite-sex couples like us, from the choice of forming a civil partnership”.
She told the BBC: “We are very disappointed in the judge’s ruling today, which we think undermines equality in the United Kingdom.
“And we know that that disappointment will be shared in the court of public opinion because we have 36,000 people who’ve signed our change to all petition supporting opening up civil partnerships to all.”
Mr Keidan said “the fight goes on” and there was still a chance “for this wrong to be righted in time”.
‘Costly and complex’
At a hearing earlier this month, the government said the future of civil partnerships had not been decided.
It said it would wait “to see how extending marriage to same-sex couples impacts upon civil partnerships before reaching a final decision on the future of civil partnerships”.
Dan Squires, counsel for the government, said ministers had decided it was “not necessary to undertake the costly and complex exercise of extending civil partnerships in the interim where they may be abolished or phased out in a few years”.
Mrs Justice Andrews, sitting in London’s High Court, said the government was “acting well within the ambit of discretion afforded to it with regard to the regulation of social matters”.
“Opposite-sex couples are not disadvantaged by the hiatus, because they can achieve exactly the same recognition of their relationship and the same rights, benefits and protections by getting married, as they always could,” she said in her ruling.
She concluded: “The government’s decision to wait and see serves the legitimate aim of avoiding the unnecessary disruption and the waste of time and money that plunging into a programme of legislative reform without waiting is likely to produce.”