A heterosexual British couple who object to what they call the patriarchal nature of marriage narrowly lost a court bid on Tuesday to be able to enter into a civil partnership after judges upheld a ruling that such unions were only eligible to those of the same sex.
Civil partnerships were introduced in Britain in 2004, giving gay couples similar legal rights to those enjoyed by married heterosexuals.
Since 2014, same-sex marriage has also been legal in England, Wales and Scotland, meaning gay couples could choose to get married or enter into a civil partnership.
Rebecca Steinfeld, 35, and her partner Charles Keidan, 40, who have a child, said that meant the law discriminated against heterosexuals like them who wanted a civil partnership rather than to be married.
The couple say they have deep-rooted and genuine ideological objections to marriage based upon what they consider to be its historically patriarchal nature.
Last January, London's High Court rejected their claim saying the law specified that civil partnerships were only for people of the same sex, and on Tuesday that ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The judges accepted there was a potential breach of the couple's human rights but by a two-to-one majority said the government should be allowed more time to assess whether civil partnerships should be extended or perhaps even phased out. "We lost so narrowly that there's everything to fight for,"Steinfeld told reporters outside the court.
"All three of the judges agreed that we were being treated differently because of our sexual orientation and that this impacts are family and private life." Keidan said there were more than three million mixed-sex couple living together with two million dependent children.
"These couple lack legal and financial security and I think many would agree that this isn't right," he said.
"None of us should be denied recognition or protection because marriage isn't right for us." He said they would challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in Britain, unless the government indicated it would change the existing law.