11.15am, Tuesday 2 November 2010
Greenwich Register Office
Woolwich, London SE18 6PW
A lesbian couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson (52) and her partner Franka (49), will apply for a civil marriage licence, in a direct challenge to the UK’s legal ban on same-sex marriage.
If their application is refused, the couple plan to take legal action in the courts to strike down the prohibition on gay marriages.
Sharon’s and Franka’s marriage application will take place at Greenwich Register Office at the Town Hall in Woolwich tomorrow, Tuesday 2 November, at 11.15am.
Their application is the first of eight register office applications which will seek to overturn the twin bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.
This new ‘Equal Love’campaign is coordinated by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and sponsored by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!
The campaign’s legal advisor is Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.
Rev Ferguson is an ordained minister of religion and chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Her partner is a corporate trainer.
Rev Ferguson said:
“Franka and I have been together for over two years. We recently started talking about having our commitment to each other recognised.
“Although I fully appreciate the benefits of civil partnerships, I don’t feel they are appropriate for us. As chief executive of LGCM, and also a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church, I spend my life campaigning for justice and equality.
“No matter how good civil partnerships are with regard to the legal protections and rights they provide, they are still a separate system that was put together to stop gay and lesbian people from being able to marry.
“Like most people in this world, we were brought up to believe that one day we’d fall in love and get married. This is what we want to do and our sexual orientation should not be an impediment,” she said.
Photos of Sharon and Franka (they are the main photo) here:
“We see the Equal Love campaign as a quest for justice; morally equivalent to the campaigns to overturn the bans on inter-racial marriage in apartheid South Africa and the Deep South of the USA,” said Equal Love coordinator Peter Tatchell.
“Starting on Tuesday 2 November, eight couples will file applications at their local register offices. Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships. Every week until 14 December, one couple will make an application.
“If the couples are turned away, we plan to take legal action. Denying them equal treatment is contrary to the Human Rights Act.
“Our legal team will argue in the courts that the bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships are unlawful and unjustified discrimination.
“In a democracy, gay and straight couples should be equal before the law. Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination,” he said.
The Equal Love campaign’s legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.
“By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, and different-sex couples from civil partnership, the UK Government is discriminating on the ground of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act,” said Professor Wintemute.
“The twin bans violate Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).
“The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy. There is no longer any justification for excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage and different-sex couples from civil partnership. It’s like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same. The only function of the twin bans is to mark lesbian and gay people as inferior to heterosexual people,” he said.
Mr Tatchell added:
“Our aim is to secure equality in civil marriage and civil partnership law. We want both systems open to all couples, gay and straight, so that everyone has a free and equal choice.
“Denying couples the right to civil marriage and civil partnership on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong and has to end.
“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law.
“The ban on same-sex civil marriage and on opposite-sex civil partnerships is a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
“Just as gay couples should be able to marry, civil partnerships should be available to straight couples.
“Same-sex marriage is the growing trend all over the world. It exists in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, as well as seven of our European neighbours: Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. We want marriage equality in Britain too.
“Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and former Conservative Party Vice-Chair, Margot James MP, have both come out in favour of allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in a registry office, on the same terms as heterosexual partners.
“This view is also endorsed by the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.
“Both the Liberal Democrat and the Green party conferences have voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the bans on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships,” noted Mr Tatchell.
Public attitudes have shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus opinion poll in June 2009 found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.