Italy: A Victory For Equality

Last Updated: 9 July 2018
Article by Giambrone Law ILP

Most Read Contributor in Italy, August 2018

After a long fight Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan have won their battle for the right to have a civil partnership.  In a ruling that has pleased both the heterosexual and the LGBT community; the Supreme Court has ruled that denying heterosexual couples the right to a civil partnership was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.  

The couple did not feel that marriage was a suitable option for them, particularly in light of the fact that for many centuries women lost all rights to their own property and were treated as chattels when they entered a marriage; they felt that a civil partnership offered a superior alternative.  

Ms. Steinfeld and Mr. Keidan began their battle in 2014 when their application for a civil partnership was refused by the Chelsea Town Hall's registry office.  In response, they sought a judicial review at the High Court. Over a year later a High Court judge granted permission for the legal claim to continue, with an all important Protective Costs Order in recognition of the importance of the case.  Just under another year later the case was heard in the High Court and they lost.  However, they were granted permission to appeal.  11 months later the case was heard in the Court of Appeal, the result was announced after a further three months, when it was stated that the couple's rights had been breached and the ban on heterosexual couple's access to civil partnership could not remain.  However, it was a split ruling and the court gave the government a limited time to decide on the future of civil partnerships.  Ms. Steinfeld and Mr. Keidan then took the matter to the Supreme Court and a further seven months elapsed before the Supreme Court granted permission to hear the case.  Finally, ten months after permission was granted, the case was heard in the Supreme Court.

Lord Kerr, when announcing the decision, stated that the government did not seek to justify the difference between the two options for "partnership" available to gay couples and the single option available to heterosexual couples, "to the contrary, it (the government) accepts that the difference cannot be justified" he commented.  The government argued that it needed time to assemble and consider information to then be able to make a decision about the fate of civil partnerships.  Lord Kerr was less than impressed by the statement commenting "What it (the government) seeks is tolerance of the discrimination while it sorts out how to deal with it. That cannot be characterised as a legitimate aim."

LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called the ruling a "victory for love and equality".  "It was never fair that same-sex couples had two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners had only one option, marriage," he said.

Understandably Ms. Steinfeld and Mr. Keidan are elated and hope that the government will take swift action to smooth the path for heterosexual couples to gain access to civil partnerships, their only reservation is the amount of taxpayers money that has been spent fighting them in the courts that surely could have been put to better use.  

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