Rebecca Steinfeld and her partner Charles Keidan are conscientious objectors to what they see as an historic patriarchy embedded in marriage.
I wonder how far back they are going. Elizabeth I would have agreed with them. To show that Venice ruled the waves, the Doge married the sea each year. The Married Women's Property Act, which allowed wives to own and control their wealth, was dated 1882. But are things so bad nowadays? I mean. Don't ask me. I wear my late mother's wedding ring, Dr Freud.
It's easy to dismiss couples who reject marriage as a case of Je t'aime...moi non plus
(I love you...me neither), or as a triumph of experience over hope, but Steinfeld and Keidan are sincere in their public quest which has become the monolithic R (on the application of Steinfeld and another) v Secretary of State
for International Development (in substitution for the Home Secretary
and the Education Secretary).
Steinfeld and Keidan want to enter a civil partnership; in the UK this is available only to same-sex couples who choose not to marry (gay marriage is not allowed in Northern Ireland but that's another story). They argue that the UK's ban on mixed-sex civil partnerships breaches their rights under Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Their sentiments are echoed in Tim Loughton MP's private members' bill, the
Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Bill
2017-19, which is at the parliamentary committee stage. Choices which a government might eventually chew over could include civil marriage for all, gay or straight, with a religious ceremony as an
optional extra; civil partnerships
could be phased out; consultation would be needed.
This campaign takes stamina. The case came to the High Court in 2016. Today Karon Monaghan QC says: 'It will be nine years before we expect to see
legislative change.' And that's assuming Brexit allows a (coalition?) government time for anything but fire-fighting.
Lord Wilson points out that the couple are knowingly running risks as unmarried cohabitees with children but without automatic rights. If either of them were to die in the interim there would be 'serious economic repercussions', he says.
Meanwhile, adopt the brace position for royal nuptials this Saturday. Which is also the anniversary of Anne Boleyn's beheading in 1536. Henry VIII certainly took a patriarchal view of marriage. As I leave the court, I see this van outside Westminster Abbey.