The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a heterosexual couple who want to enter into a civil partnership as an alternative to getting married.
The judgment follows a long running legal battle involving Charles Keidan and his partner Rebecca Steinfeld, who live in London.
The couple want a legally recognised relationship but are uncomfortable with what they call the “legacy of marriage” because for centuries it had “treated women as property”.
They told the court: "We want to raise our children as equal partners and feel that a civil partnership - a modern, symmetrical institution - sets the best example for them."
Civil partnerships offer couples the same legal rights as marriage in areas such as inheritance and tax. They also provide partners with the same protections as married couples if the relationship breaks up.
Currently the Civil Partnership Act only applies to same-sex couples. The government said it accepted that the inequality of treatment could not be justified but sought tolerance of the discrimination while it worked out how to deal with it.
The court rejected that argument and said denying civil partnerships to heterosexual couples contravened the European Convention on Human Rights. It said government should have eliminated the inequality of treatment immediately; a discriminatory measure could not be justified by the need for time to change the law.
Campaigners are now urging the government to follow the lead given in the ruling and amend the law to make civil partnerships available to all couples.
Martin Loat, chairman of the Equal Civil Partnerships campaign, told the BBC: "There is only one possible way forward - giving everyone the right to a civil partnership - and we urge the government to seize this opportunity to announce it will end this injustice now."
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Case Citations: R (on the application of (1) STEINFELD (2) KEIDAN) v SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (IN SUBSTITUTION FOR HOME SECRETARY & EDUCATION SECRETARY) (2018)
SC (Lady Hale PSC, Lord Kerr JSC, Lord Wilson JSC, Lord Reed JSC, Lady Black JSC) 27/06/2018