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U.K Registrar denies Heterosexual couples "Equal Love"

Source: Norman S. Miwambo
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A heterosexual couple, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, were refused a civil partnership on Tuesday, 9 November at Islington Register Office in London.

The registrar cited the legal ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships as the reason for the refusal.

This was the second couple to be denied civil partnership in a period of less than a week. Last week another couple Rev. Sharon Ferguson, 52 and her partner Franka Strietzel, 49, were turned away at Greenwich register office in south-east London, on the grounds that UK law stipulates that marriage partners have to be male and female.

Commenting on the refusal, Katherine Doyle, 26, a postgraduate student said:"The refusal was expected but it is still very frustrating.”

“We are committed to each other and really want a civil partnership, said Doyle, adding that: “We don't like the patriarchal traditions of marriage and don't want to be called husband and wife.”

She added:” Tom and I see each other as equal partners. That's why civil partnerships appeal to us. They are more egalitarian and better reflect our relationship.”

Her partner Tom Freeman, 26, an administrator added: “Despite being rejected, we'll carry on the fight. We are referring the letter of refusal to our legal advisor, Professor Robert Wintemute of Kings College London.”

Last month, the “Equal Love” campaign's legal case was prepared by Professor Robert Wintemute of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

“If the couples are refused, we will mount a legal challenge,” said Prof. Wintemute, adding that: “The ban violate the UK's Human Rights Act and are open to challenge in court.”

The professor then added: “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 family life).

“The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnerships 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.

“Together with other gay and straight couples, later this year we plan to file a joint action in the courts to overturn the twin bans on heterosexual civil partnerships and gay civil marriages, “said Freeman, adding that: “We believe these bans violate Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the Human Rights Act and will be eventually overturned by the courts.”

He added: “The denial of civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples perpetuates inequality. It is discriminatory and illegal.”

Tom and Katherine's application today is part of the new Equal Lovecampaign, which seeks the repeal of the twin prohibitions on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

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

"We seek heterosexual equality. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. There should be no legal discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Mr Tatchell.

"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 Tom and Katherine can have the option of a civil partnership.

"The bans on same-sex civil marriages and on opposite-sex 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.

"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.

According to Mr Tatchell, they [heterosexuals, ] anticipate that from November 2, onwards, eight couples await to file applications at register offices in London, Northampton, Bristol and Havant. 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. Once all the applications have been refused, the eight couples will consult their lawyer and agree a joint legal action.

"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.

“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,” Mr Tatchell noted.

Public attitudes have shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populous 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.

Additionally, Katherine Doyle (26), a postgraduate student said: “We have been together for four and a half years and would like to formalise our relationship. Because we feel alienated from the patriarchal traditions of marriage, we would prefer to have a civil partnership. As a mixed-sex couple, we are banned by law from doing so. By filing an application for civil partnership, we are seeking to challenge this discriminatory law.

“Our decision is also motivated by the fact that we object to the way same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married. If we got married we would be colluding with the segregation that exists in relationship law between gay civil partnerships and straight civil

marriages. We don't want to take advantage of civil marriage when it is an option that is denied to our lesbian and gay friends,” she said.

Tom Freeman, 26, an administrator said: “We want to secure official status for our relationship in a way that supports the call for complete equality and is free of the negative, sexist connotations of marriage. "We'd prefer a civil partnership. But if we cannot have one, we won't get married.

"On a point of principle, we'll remain unmarried until opposite-sex couples can have a civil partnership and same-sex couples can have a civil marriage.

"We are taking this stand against discrimination and in support of legal equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

"The 'separate but equal' system which segregates couples according to their sexuality is not equal at all. All loving couples should have access to the same institutions, regardless of sexuality," he said.