A gay couple’s application for a civil marriage licence was today refused by Greenwich register office in south-east London.
David Watters (40) and Richard Hull (49) were turned away on the grounds that UK law states that marriage partners have to be male and female.
Richard and David now plan to challenge this restriction in the courts, arguing that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Human Rights Act – specifically Articles 14 (protection against discrimination), 12 (the right to marry) and 8 (the right to respect for family life).
Photos of David and Richard at Greenwich register office:
These photos are free to use, without charge, but please credit Chris Houston
Responding to the refusal of their request for a marriage licence, David Watters said:
“Being refused the licence didn’t exactly come as a surprise. After all, the five other couples who have gone before us have been turned away. What does surprise me is that society still tolerates homophobic discrimination in marriage law.
“My emotions are mixed. There is a great sense of sadness and anger that my love for Richard is not accorded the same respect and rights as the love that heterosexuals share.
“It is overwhelming to be part of such an historic campaign. I have an immense feeling of hope and positivity about the eventual outcome. Richard and I are here for the long haul. The justice of our claim for marriage equality will win out sooner or later,” he said.
His partner Richard Hull added:
“Like David, I am neither surprised nor shocked at the outcome today. But I am annoyed and upset that I cannot celebrate my love for David by going through a marriage ceremony; instead we are expected to settle for what I regard as second best, a civil partnership.
“Our love is no less than that shared by a heterosexual couple. Speaking as a gay man who once had a heterosexual marriage, I feel cheated. I was allowed to get married when I was engaged to a woman but I am denied this option when I want to marry David.
“I feel privileged to be joining the other couples on the Equal Love Campaign, knowing that we will eventually change the law, so that I can celebrate my love for David by marrying him. I don’t want to settle for a civil partnership which, for us, is not an adequate option,” he concluded.
David Watters is a personal development consultant, writer on equality issues and author of Never blend in: The legacy of Harvey Milk. Richard Hull is a catering manager and chef. They have been together in a relationship for six years.
See more quotes from Richard and David towards the end of this news release.
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.
The ‘Equal Love’ campaign is coordinated by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and sponsored by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.
“A similar ban on Asian or Jewish marriages would provoke fierce condemnation and mass protests. So why are so many people silent about the ban on gay marriages?” queried Equal Love coordinator Peter Tatchell, who attended the register office with Richard and David today.
“We see the Equal Love campaign as a historic 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.
“Prohibiting same-sex civil marriages and 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.
“David and Richard are the sixth of eight couples to challenge these twin bans, and the fourth same-sex couple to do so.
“They are the second same-sex couple to file an application at Greenwich register office. The first same-sex couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka, applied on 2 November and were also rejected.
“A total of 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. One couple will make an application every week until 14 December.
“We expect that all eight couples will be turned away. They will then launch a joint legal action to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law,” said Mr Tatchell.
The Equal Love campaign’s legal advisor is Professor 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. 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),” said Professor Wintemute.
“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.
Explaining their bid for marriage equality, David Watters said:
“The current ban on gay marriage denies us the dignity and respect that is conveyed through the institution of marriage.
“Equality under the law is a fundamental human right. Prohibiting same-sex marriage excludes gay people from enjoying the same legal status as heterosexuals. This amounts to unfair treatment for gay couples like ourselves. We want to embrace the commitment and responsibilities that come with marriage. The law won’t allow us to do so.
“Negative social perceptions are perpetuated through exclusion from public institutions like marriage. Society will not progress until both heterosexual and homosexual relationships are enshrined in law with the same validity and rights.
“Marriage inequality creates two classes of citizens: inferior and superior. Marriage equality, alongside other equality initiatives, will contribute to an enriched, enlightened and fairer society.
“Civil Partnerships are often not accepted socially as being on a par with civil or religious marriages. This perpetuates a continued ‘us and them’ attitude; reinforcing, rather than challenging, the inferiority of gay relationships.
“Since the legal rights and responsibilities of civil partnerships are almost identical to those of civil marriage, why have two separate systems?” David queried.
His partner Richard Hull added:
“If we live in a country where we are supposed to have equal rights regardless of our sexuality, why is it necessary for the gay community to be relegated to a separate institution, civil partnerships?
“We should have the same access to civil marriage as heterosexual couples. The ban on gay marriage should be overturned because, until it is, we are still not truly equal citizens.
“Civil partnerships are a recent invention, which create a divide between homosexual and heterosexual couples. They are a legal form of segregation, much like apartheid but based upon sexual orientation rather than race.
“This denial of marriage rights doesn’t reflect our personal aspirations but instead devalues us.
“It is a fundamental human right to marry the person of one’s choice. I would like to exercise my right to marry David. I don’t want to be his civil partner.
“The truth is that desire, domesticity, intimacy and love make no gender distinction. My desire to marry David is equal in depth and validity to the desires of any heterosexual person,” he said.
Commenting further on the Equal Love campaign, Peter Tatchell noted:
“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.
“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.
“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.