logo

A clear win for the first campaign use of PostBug postcards

Client: Equal Civil Partnerships

The campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships

Why Equal Civil Partnerships?

Since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act (2004) same sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 legalised same sex marriages in England and Wales from March 2014. (Scotland, operating under devolved law also allows both same sex marriage and civil partnerships.) Since that date, same sex couples, quite rightly, have the option to choose the best legal framework for their own relationship.

Mixed sex couple, however, had only the choice of marriage when many couples would prefer to formalise their relationship – and enjoy the security and benefits of a legal partnership – through the formation of a civil partnership.

The Equal Civil Partnerships (ECP) Campaign Group focussed upon changing the law so that all couples have the same access to choose the type of framework they want for their relationship, a framework which will protect all couples, legally and financially in the eyes of the law.

Martin Loat OBE was the Campaign Chair and is the founder of PostBug. He is in a civil partnership with long-term partner Claire Beale with whom he has two teenage children. The partnership, signed and legalised in the Isle of Man become a legal reality in England and Wales on 2nd December 2019.

The strategy

The Equal Civil Partnerships campaign pursued a dual strategy through the law courts of England and through parliament to ensure the introduction of mixed-sex civil partnerships – a process which was completed in England and Wales at the end of 2019.

Parliamentary strategy

The goal of the parliamentary strategy was to get bills introduced that allow that opposite sex couples may enter a civil partnership.

Legal strategy

In October 2014, London-based couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan tried to form a civil partnership at their local registry office – Chelsea Town Hall in London – but were told that they couldn’t because they were not of the same sex – civil partnerships are restricted to same-sex couples only.

Following this refusal, Rebecca and Charles launched a legal challenge in December 2014 in the form of a Judicial Review at the High Court.

Over 3 years later, their case was heard in May 2018 in the UK’s Supreme Court, which concentrates on “cases of the greatest public and constitutional importance”.

Court case outcome

In June 2018 Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan finally received the legal ruling they had been seeking. By a unanimous vote, the five judges of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the United Kingdom, ruled that the Government’s refusal to allow opposite sex couples to have civil partnerships ‘incompatible’ with human rights law.

The issue was whether the bar on different-sex couples entering into civil partnerships breached the appellants’ rights under article 14 (the prohibition on discrimination) together with article 8 (the right

to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Lord Kerr, speaking on behalf of all five judges ruled that it did.

The full details of the judgment can be read here. Supreme Court – UKSC 2017/0060

The full statements made by Rebecca and Charles, outside the Supreme Court after their victory, can be found on our Latest News page.

Who was behind it?

The Equal Civil Partnership Campaign Group plans the campaign strategy, fundraises and through a mixture of media and social media awareness raising, the legal case and parliamentary lobbying have been instrumental in ending this inequality and now look forward to enjoying equal civil partnerships.

  • Martin Loat, Campaign Chair (and founder of PostBug), is in a civil partnership with long-term partner Claire Beale with whom he has two teenage children. The partnership, signed and legalised in the Isle of Man, will become a legal reality in England and Wales on 2nd December 2019.
  • Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan are the campaign’s champions, having taken the Government to court over the failure to allow equal civil partnerships and finally won their case at the Supreme Court in June 2018. Long-term campaigners for #equallove, the couple have two young children.
  • Fiona Millar, journalist and campaigner, is in a long-term relationship with partner, Alastair Campbell. They have three adult children.
  • Amy Grant (not pictured) joined the campaign in May 2020 as campaign lead with the brief to establish mscps as part of fabric of UK life. She and her partner, Ben Piggott, are planning their own civil partnership.

The core campaign group have been supported by equal rights activist, Peter Tatchell, human rights legal expert, Prof Robert Wintemute and Elsie Owusu OBE

How PostBug was used

As part of the parliamentary strategy, PostBug was used to enable supporters to send postcards to MPs and ministers. However as the campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships was not part of a larger organisation and simply a collection of interested individuals, there was little budget for doing much as the team and supporters all worked for free.

For PostBug this wasn't an issue since campaigns could be set up where the sender pays. All the campaign team had to do was choose the recipients based on their strategy, prepare the images and text to support that strategy and promote it to their supporters.

The campaign ran a dozen or more PostBug actions. When their in-person work needed a boost or a new minister needed to be re-acquainted with the campaign, a PostBug postcard action was created and promoted to supporters.

Outcome

The number were not large, but that is the beauty of PostBug postcards: it doesn't need to be. The impact of the postcards was far greater than hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of emails and MPs and ministers took note.

Impact: We won!

The campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships won in 2019 on both strategies: the legal case was won in 2018 and the legislation was changed through private member bills so support equal civil partnerships. Like most campaigns, it is hard to know the impact of a single tactic or channel like using postcards because all campaigns take multiple strategies, tactics, channels and messengers. But it certainly was a valuable tactic and channel that was a strong compliment to the others. Plus the ability for supporters to pay vs having a central budget helped make it viable when other tools were more out of reach.

Equal Civil Partnerships postcard: Protect Our Families

Equal Civil Partnerships postcard: Protect Our Families