Family Law

Tying the traditional knot

Mr Charles Keidan and Ms Rebecca Steinfeld are like any other cohabiting couple in the UK, living together, sharing the ups and downs of life,  the daily chores and probably the odd argument here and there. One big difference however is that this couple refuse to marry in order to formalise their long term relationship.

What is the big deal I hear you mutter, plenty of couples up and down the country are cohabiting, living as man and wife and do not require that piece of paper that states that they are officially a husband or a wife. Well, this couple have hit the headlines because, as atheists they wish to challenge the traditional terms of marriage and quite simply believe that an alternative should be made available to them.


Well, surely there is an alternative available to them, to pop down to the registry office and sign off as man and wife: no religion involved just a straight forward and simple wedding. No, this is not good enough for Mr Keidan and Ms Steinfeld who see themselves as ‘partners’ and therefore the only option that fits their way of life would be a civil partnership. To this end they are seeking a judicial review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, believing that in its current state the Act unjustly discriminates against them, as heterosexuals.

This couple not only believe that the traditional concept of marriage is ancient but also sexist towards women; from the raucous stag and hen do’s to the stereotypical big white wedding, where the bride is wearing a monstrous white meringue and being ‘given away’ by her father. However, is this somewhat a weak argument considering that I would hope that most couples intending to tie the knot do it for the sanctity of marriage rather that the last night of freedom and the wedding gifts. Has anybody reminded this couple that marriage does not have to mean a big white wedding dress and walking down the aisle with your father – you can walk down the aisle by yourself or with your best friend if you so choose, you can also wear your favourite little black dress if you prefer! Almost anything goes these days.

Steinfeld and Keidan attempted to have a civil ceremony conducted in October 2014 at their local registry office, however the registrar refused due to section 3 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which stipulates that only same sex couples are eligible for civil partnerships. The couple believe that the Act is unfair and discriminatory towards heterosexual couples who wish to enjoy a ‘partnership’, however the purpose of the Act was to allow same sex couples the rights and responsibilities that were already available to heterosexual couples. It is not actually your sexual orientation that dictates your eligibility to partake in a civil partnership under the 2004 Act, it is your sex alone. You need not prove yourself as homosexual in order to have a civil partnership, but you must be part of a same sex couple, therefore two women who are friends could in theory enter a civil partnership.

There are many hurdles that this couple are going to come up against if they are to continue their quest to change the law in this way – however surely the biggest hurdle is of course the legal fees of such a cause. The couple have already utilised public donations and have stated that they will pursue their case only with a protective costs order, which essentially means that even if they lose their case they will not be paying the costs. Is this fair? The current law allows this couple to pop down to the local registry office to sign the paperwork, do away with the white dress, the father of the bride rigmarole and even the traditional ‘honeymoon’ – essentially what will remain will be a union, marriage, partnership whatever you wish to term it, of two people who have declared in public that they wish to spend the rest of their lives together. So what is all the fuss really about?

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor

Pinder Reaux & Associates


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