Equal love: how legal fundraising supports equal marriage, civil partners and unmarried couples


The CrowdJustice Team

posted on 14 Feb 2019

In the UK and around the world, people are taking legal action to ensure that the law recognises their relationship status and protects their right to family life.

Same sex couples have fought for the right to get married. Heterosexual couples want to be able to enter into civil partnerships. And unmarried partners who live together want the same financial protections as married couples and civil partners.

CrowdJustice helps ordinary people to access justice when they need it most. By telling their story and raising support and funds on CrowdJustice, couples have been able to stand up for their rights. Here are a few examples where CrowdJustice backers have helped people to fight for equal love.

Equal civil partnerships

Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan live together with their two young children. In 2018, they wanted to formalise their relationship. But, for various reasons, they believed that marriage wasn’t right for them. They wanted to enter into a civil partnership.

However, they weren’t allowed to, because the relevant law - the Civil Partnership Act 2004 - only applied to same sex couples. Civil partnerships weren’t available to heterosexual couples.

Rebecca and Charles took the matter to the Supreme Court, having raised £11,000 on CrowdJustice. They argued that the law treated heterosexual couples unequally and that offering civil partnerships only to same sex couples was discriminatory.

The Supreme Court agreed that the law treated same sex and heterosexual couples unequally. It declared the relevant sections of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 incompatible with the couple’s right to be free from discrimination in matters affecting their private and family life.

Rebecca and Charles said: "For us, a civil partnership best reflects who we are, how we see our relationship and our role as parents - a partnership of equals." In response to the case, the Government announced in October 2018 that civil partnerships will be extended to heterosexual couples.

Protecting unmarried partners

Denise Brewster was with her partner, Lenny McMullan, for 15 years. But Lenny died suddenly in the early hours of Boxing Day in 2009.

Had Denise been married to Lenny, she would have benefited from his occupational pension scheme through a survivor’s pension. But, unlike married couples, cohabiting partners had to fill out an additional form to receive funds, and the insurance scheme claimed that it hadn’t received the form.

As a result, Denise was disqualified from receiving a survivor’s pension. All the money Lenny paid in would just go back into the pension scheme.

Denise raised £4,000 on CrowdJustice to take the matter to the Supreme Court. She argued that, as a surviving unmarried partner was in a similar situation to a surviving married partner or civil partner, the requirement to complete an additional form was discriminatory.

The Supreme Court agreed that the policy for unmarried couples had a discriminatory effect which could not be justified. It concluded that Denise was entitled to receive a survivor’s pension under the scheme. The decision also has wider importance for the rights of other unmarried cohabiting partners.

Denise said: "This has been an extremely difficult journey, but one that I had to take. At first I was fighting for Lenny and myself but as time went on I realised I was also fighting for other families that have been victims of discrimination. Collectively we all came together and can you believe it? WE DID IT!"

Equality around the world

Around the globe, LGBTQ+ campaigners are still fighting for same sex couples to be able to get married.

In Bermuda, campaigners are challenging legislation brought forward by the Government which replaced same sex marriage with civil partnerships. They raised £40,000 on CrowdJustice and convinced the Court of Appeal that the Government was wrong to replace same sex marriage with civil partnerships.

As a result, same sex couples are currently free to marry in Bermuda, but the Government is appealing the decision to the Privy Council (Bermuda’s highest court). Campaigners have raised further funds on CrowdJustice for legal representation in the Privy Council.

Meanwhile, campaigners in Northern Ireland are fighting to give same sex couples the right to get married there. Northern Ireland remains the last place in the UK and Ireland where same sex couples cannot get married.

The challenge to the ban on equal marriage was denied in August 2017 by the High Court in Belfast. But campaigners have lodged an appeal and hope the matter will be heard by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland in 2019. They have raised over £6,000 on CrowdJustice.

The campaigners say: "This case is crucially important to the future of equal rights in Northern Ireland. If our case is successful, ALL couples in NI may apply to be married, irrespective of their sexual orientation."

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