Legal challenge to ban on gay marriage & straight civil partnerships

Gay couples will file applications for civil marriages

Heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships

Legal bid to end sexual orientation discrimination

Equal Love campaign
10.15am, Tuesday 26 October 2010
Halfway to Heaven pub, 7 Duncannon Street, London WC2N 4JF (off Trafalgar Square).

See map here:

This news conference will be chaired by Peter Tatchell, and the Equal Love campaign’s legal expert, Professor Robert Wintemute, and two of the eight plaintiff couples

A simultaneous legal challenge to the twin bans on gay marriage and on heterosexual civil partnerships is being organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans human rights organisation OutRage!

“Starting on 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, through to 14 December, one couple will make an application,” said Equal Love campaign coordinator, Peter Tatchell, of OutRage!

“If the couples are turned away, we plan to take legal action. We will argue in the courts that in a democratic society 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 lead same-sex couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson and Franka Strietzel, and the lead heterosexual couple, Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman, will attend and speak at the news conference.

The Equal Love campaign’s legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

“If the couples are refused, we will mount a legal challenge. These bans violate the UK’s Human Rights Act and are open to challenge in the courts,” said Professor Wintemute.

“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. Specifically, 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. Why can’t we have 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 twin bans on gay civil marriage 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.