Gay marriage bid in Petersfield

‘Equal Love’ campaign seeks gay marriages & straight civil partnerships

Lesbian couple to apply for civil marriage

12.45pm, Tuesday 30 November 2010

Petersfield Registration Office
The Old College, College Street
Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 4AG

A lesbian couple, Colette French and Katie Green, 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.

Katie and Colette’s application will take place at Petersfield Register Office in Hampshire tomorrow, Tuesday 30 November, at 12.45pm.

Colette French (21) is an administrator and Katie Green (21) is a student at of International Relations and Politics at Portsmouth University. Both were born in Portsmouth. They have been together in a relationship 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.

They are the fifth of eight couples to challenge these twin bans, and the third same-sex couple to challenge the ban on gay marriages.

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 outlawing of 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, Katie Green said:

“We love each other and want to formalise our relationship. Marriage is the universally recognised system of love and commitment. We want to be part of it, to secure the ultimate recognition of our relationship.

“In a democracy, institutions should reflect society and be open to all. Civil partnerships and civil marriages offer almost the same rights and responsibilities. Therefore it seems the only reason that marriage has a closed door policy towards lesbian and gay couples is to denote their inferior status.

“Segregating gay couples into civil partnerships perpetuates homophobic prejudice and discrimination,” she said.

Her partner Colette French added:

“The ban on gay marriage denies us a democratic right. Not allowing us to register our commitment to each other as a marriage reinforces and promotes inequality.

“Love is equal and should be recognised as such. Failure to open up marriage to all couples sends out the message that lesbian and gay couples are not on par with our heterosexual counterparts.

“I have a lasting commitment to Katie and wish to register this through a civil marriage. I feel that civil partnerships were set up as a second class institution to deny us equality with opposite-sex couples,” she 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, as has already happened to four couples, 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.