Gay male couple to apply for civil marriage
10.30am, Tuesday 2 December 2010
Greenwich Register Office
Woolwich, London SE18 6PW
A gay male couple, David Watters and Richard Hull, 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 (jointly with other rejected couples) to strike down the prohibition on gay marriages.
David and Richard’s marriage application will take place at Greenwich Register Office at the Town Hall in Woolwich tomorrow, Tuesday 2 December, at 10.30am.
David Watters (40) is a personal development consultant, writer on equality issues and author of Never blend in: The legacy of Harvey Milk. Richard Hull (49) is a catering manager and chef. They have been together in a relationship for six years. They explain below the reasons why they want a civil marriage.
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.
Richard and David 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 Franka Strietzel, applied on 2 November and were rejected.
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 black marriages would provoke an outcry. So why should the ban on gay marriages be tolerated?,” queried Equal Love campaign coordinator, Mr Tatchell.
“The bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said.
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.
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.
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:
“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.
“In the coming weeks, 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. Every week until 14 December, one couple will make an application.
“If they are turned away, they will launch a joint legal action to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.
“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. He notes:
“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,” said Prof Wintemute.
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. 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.