Heterosexual equality bid by Ian and Kristin

Straight couple will apply for a civil partnership

Discrimination against opposite-sex couples challenged

Tuesday 23 November 2010

11.15am

Register Office

The Old Council House

Corner of Corn Street and Broad Street

Bristol BS1 1JG

A heterosexual couple, Ian Goggin and Kristin Skarsholt, will challenge the legal ban on straight civil partnerships by filing an application at Bristol Register Office this Tuesday, 23 November, at 11.15am.

They are demanding “heterosexual equality.”

The denial of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples is, they say, “unjust, discriminatory and offensive.”

Mr Goggin and Ms Skarsholt expect to be turned down by the registrar but they plan to get the rejection in writing, with view to taking legal advice and appealing against the refusal in the courts.

Skarsholt and Goggin are both Bristol-based students. Kristin (22) is studying Arabic and Ian (21) is studying music technology. She was born in Norway and he in Ireland. They’ve been in a relationship together for two years.

The couple’s bid is part of the new Equal Love campaign, which is seeking to overturn the twin prohibitions on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

Kristin and Ian are the fourth of eight couples who will file applications at register offices across the country, in an effort to overturn the “sexual segregation” in civil marriage and civil partnership law.

The Equal Love campaign is organised by the gay rights group OutRage! and coordinated by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell will join Kristin and Ian this Tuesday, 23 November, when they apply for a civil partnership in Bristol.

Mr Tatchell commented:

“We seek heterosexual equality. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. There should be no legal discrimination. The twin bans on gay civil marriages and on heterosexual civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. There is one law for straight couples and another law for gay partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is discriminatory and offensive. We want to see it ended, so that straight couples like Ian and Kristin can have the option of a civil partnership. I salute their challenge to this unjust legislation,” he said.

Ian Goggin (21) said:

“We want a civil partnership for two reasons. It better reflects our relationship, and we can’t condone the baseless discrimination between civil marriages and civil partnerships.

“We seek the security and stability of a legal commitment, without the necessity to be associated with the language and culture of marriage. I don’t identify with this culture, and cannot think of Kristin as my ‘wife’. She is my partner, we work together, sharing responsibilities.

“We believe in access to civil partnerships for all. The similar Pacte Civil de Solidarit√© in France is extremely popular, with 95% of those taking it up in 2009 being heterosexual couples.

“A key reason we won’t get married is that we don’t want to take part in an institution that excludes our homosexual friends. We feel a fair society shouldn’t countenance this kind of hurtful sexual orientation discrimination and hope this campaign can go some way towards challenging such discrimination,” he said.

Kristin Skarsholt (22) added:

“It is important for me to be recognised as a ‘partner’ to Ian, and for him being acknowledged as a ‘partner’ to me; rather than him being ‘the husband’ and me being ‘his wife’. A civil partnership is a better reflection of our equal relations and our love for each other.

“Having both civil marriages and civil partnerships open to everyone is an important part of the struggle for equality. It recognises the universality of love, commitment, stability and security.

“We should all have the right to choose the institution that best reflects our relationship.

“Segregating gay and straight couples means that people of different sexualities are not being treated equally before the law,” she concluded.

Ian and Kristin are being advised by the Equal Love campaign’s legal advisor, 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.