LONDON — The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a man and woman who want to enter into a civil partnership rather than a marriage covenant because of its “patriarchal nature,” opining that it is discriminatory and “incompatible” with civil rights law to only allow homosexuals the option of civil partnerships. The decision has been lamented by Christian organizations as “yet another fundamental attack on marriage.”
“The interests of the community in denying those different-sex couples who have a genuine objection to being married the opportunity to enter into a civil partnership are unspecified and not easy to envisage,” the unanimous five-justice court wrote.
“The present case does not involve a form of discrimination that was historically justified but has gradually lost its justification. The exact reverse is the case here. A new form of discrimination was introduced by the coming into force of MSSCA (Marriage of Same-Sex Couples Act of 2013). There was, therefore, in the words of Lord Hoffmann, no reason to conclude that this discrimination ‘was ever justified’,” it asserted.
The case centered on Charles Keidan, 41, and Rebecca Steinfeld, 37, who have two children together, but have no desire to marry as they believe marriage has “treated women as property for centuries” and, as stated by their attorney, is “historically heteronormative and patriarchal.” They argue that a civil partnership is a more equitable arrangement for their household.
“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,” they said, according to the BBC.
“There are 3.3 cohabiting couples in this country—the fastest growing family type,” Keiden also told reporters following Wednesday’s ruling. “Many want legal recognition and financial protection, but cannot have it because they are not married or because the choice of civil partnership is not available to them. The law needs to catch up with the reality of family life in Britain in 2018.”
Keidan and Steinfeld had filed suit in December 2014 after seeking to apply for a civil partnership at Chelsea Town Hall and being turned away because the recognition is only legally available to homosexuals. The UK’s Civil Partnership Act of 2004 defines a civil partnership as a “relationship between two people of the same sex.”
In January 2016, the High Court ruled against Keiden and Steinfeld, but granted permission to appeal. In February 2017, the Court of Appeal opined 2-1 that the secretary of state’s “wait and evaluate” policy on the issue was “justified” as it wouldn’t want the government to hurriedly legalize civil partnerships for all for a time, and then ultimately decide to abolish the arrangement. Keiden and Steinfeld then appealed to the Supreme Court and were granted a hearing.
The government again argued that it needed time to consider if there exists a public demand for opposite sex civil partnerships, and whether to do away with civil partnerships altogether or extend them to all people. It estimated that evidence would be gathered by September 2019, and a consultation period would commence “at the earliest” in 2020.
However, the UK Supreme Court opined that the government desires too much time to address the matter.
“The redressing by the legislature of an imbalance which it has come to recognize is one thing; the creation of inequality quite another,” it said. “To be allowed time to reflect on what should be done when one is considering how to deal with an evolving societal attitude is reasonable and understandable. But to create a situation of inequality and then ask for the indulgence of time—in this case several years—as to how that inequality is to be cured is, to say the least, less obviously deserving of a margin of discretion.”
While some applauded Wednesday’s ruling, stating that “[i]t was never fair that same-sex couples had two options, civil partnerships and civil marriages, whereas opposite-sex partners had only one option, marriage,” others have lamented the ruling as being another assault on the God-designed institution of marriage.
“This is yet another fundamental attack on marriage from a court system that seems determined to do all it can to undermine it,” remarked Ciarán Kelly of The Christian Institute in an article posted to the group’s website.
“The couple who brought this case objected to what they called the ‘sexist trappings’ of marriage. But that is to fundamentally misrepresent what marriage is about,” he said. “Marriage—with its public promises of lifelong faithfulness—is the gold standard of commitment. It is beneficial for the individuals involved and for society as a whole.”
“With this ruling the court has given its backing to ‘marriage lite’— all the benefits of marriage but without the responsibilities,” Kelly lamented.
Ephesians 5:23-30 teaches, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the savior of the body. Therefore, as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. … He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.”