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article imageCouples to mount European legal challenge to UK partnership laws

By Andrew John     Dec 17, 2010 in Lifestyle
Eight couples from the UK will file a joint application to the European Court of Human Rights next week to try to overturn the twin bans on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.
The application – next Tuesday, December 21 – will coincide with the fifth anniversary of the first civil partnership in the UK. Civil partnerships are available only to same-sex couples.
Peter Tatchell, an Australian-born British gay human-rights activist, is also coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, which seeks to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.
“Over the last two months, four same-sex couples were refused marriage licences at register offices in Greenwich, Northampton, and Petersfield. During the same period, four heterosexual couples were turned away when they applied for civil partnerships in Islington, Camden, Bristol, and Aldershot,” says Tatchell in a new release.
“All eight received letters of refusal from their register offices, which we are now using as the evidential basis to challenge in the European Court of Human Rights the exclusion of gay couples from civil marriage and the prohibition of straight civil partnerships.
“Since there is no difference in the rights and responsibilities involved in gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships, there is no point or justification in having two mutually exclusive and discriminatory systems.
“Outlawing black marriages would provoke uproar. The prohibition on gay marriages should provoke similar outrage.”
Tatchell, one of the founders of the gay campaigning group OutRage!, adds: “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. In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law.”
The legal case will be launched at a news conference in the Great Hall of Kings College London at 10 a.m. next Tuesday. It will chaired by Tatchell and will feature all eight couples and their legal adviser, Professor Robert Wintemute of the School of Law at King’s College, London. He will outline the legal basis of the Equal Love challenge to the current proscriptions.
Discriminatory and obnoxious
“Banning same-sex marriage and different-sex civil partnerships violates Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Wintemute.
“It’s discriminatory and obnoxious, 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 socially and legally inferior to heterosexual people.
“I am confident that we have a good chance of persuading the European Court of Human Rights that the UK’s system of segregating couples into two ‘separate but equal’ legal institutions violates the Convention. I would predict that same-sex couples will be granted access to marriage in the UK and that this will be because the UK Government will eventually accept that it cannot defend the current discriminatory system,” he said.
More about Civil partnerships, Civil marriage, Peter tatchell, Same-sex
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