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article imageCouples launch court bid to overturn UK twin marriage bans

By Andrew John     Dec 21, 2010 in Lifestyle
Couples are today mounting a legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights to get civil partnerships in Britain extended to straight couples and civil marriage available to gays.
Eight UK couples are filing a joint application to the court to try to overturn the twin bans.
The campaigning group Equal Love is behind the challenge.
“More than 40,000 same sex couples have had their relationships recognised in law since civil partnerships were introduced in 2005,” says the BBC.
“The couples, four heterosexual and four same-sex, have all recently tried to marry or form a legally recognised civil partnership and been refused for various reasons,” the report continues.
One of the leading campaigners, Peter Tatchell, of the gay group OutRage!, said: “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.”
“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.”
Excludes ‘our homosexual friends’
A member of one of the heterosexual couples involved in the case told BBC Radio 4’s Today news programme of the two main reasons why he and his partner Kristin Skarsholt preferred civil partnership to a traditional marriage.
“One is that we can’t buy into marriage whilst it excludes our homosexual friends. We can’t condone that by entering into a marriage,” he said.
“And, secondly, we feel a civil partnership better reflects our relationship by allowing us to be legally recognised as partners – and also meaning that we can not have to buy into the culture and language of marriage.”
Tatchell told BBC Radio 5 Live that the current situation was unfair.
“When the law says a gay person is banned from marriage, that sends a signal. It sends a signal that we are regarded as socially and legally inferior. No one grows up dreaming of being a civil partner. People grow up dreaming of falling in love and one day getting married. That dream is just as real for gay people as it is straight people.”
UPDATE: The case has now been put back owing to a technicality. See our later story for details.
More about Civil partnerships, Civil marriage, European court human rights, Marriage, Gay
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