One of the UK’s best-known equality campaigners is hitting out at a right-wing group that campaigns for what it calls traditional marriage.
Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation and coordinator of the Equal Love Campaign, which seeks the right of gay couples to have a civil marriage and heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership, says the Coalition for Marriage is perfectly entitled to say same-sex marriage is wrong.
“But they are not entitled to demand that their opposition to such marriages should be imposed on the rest of society and enforced by law,” Tatchell says in a news release today.
Tatchell was commenting on today’s London launch of the Coalition, which is being hosted by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Colin Hart, director of the right-wing Christian Institute. Both have long opposed same-sex unions.
“The Coalition for Marriage opposes same-sex marriage, claiming that it wants to defend ‘traditional marriage’ and halt attempts to ‘redefine’ it,” says Tatchell
“The coalition is out of touch with public opinion. Most British people now support marriage equality.”
The campaigner – who has just turned 60 – points to a Populus poll (PDF) in 2009, which found that 61 percent of the public believe: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33 percent disagreed, he says.
Tatchell’s statement continues:
The ban on same-sex marriage is discrimination. It violates the democratic principle that everyone should be equal before the law.
It was recently claimed that 100 Conservative MPs are bidding to veto the government’s commitment to legalise same-sex marriage before the next election. If true, this is evidence that substantial sections of the Tory party still back homophobic discrimination.
The Equal Love campaign is building political momentum. The right of gay couples to marry is backed by [Prime Minister] David Cameron, [Opposition Labour leader] Ed Miliband, [Deputy Prime Minister] Nick Clegg, [London mayor] Boris Johnson and a growing number of Tory MPs, including Chloe Smith, Mike Weatherley and Margot James.
In 2010, the Green Party national conference was the first to vote to end the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. It was followed by the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru [Welsh Nationalists] conferences. Oddly, the Labour conference has declined to vote on the issue, although the GMB, Unison [both trade unions] and all 13 Labour MEPs [Members of the European Parliament] want an end to sexual-orientation discrimination in both marriage and partnership law.
The SNP [Scottish National Party] government in Scotland is leading the way, with its public consultation on marriage equality already concluded; while David Cameron has twice postponed the start of his consultation, from last summer to next month.
One year ago this month, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples, sponsored by the Equal Love campaign, filed a historic joint appeal [PDF] to the European Court of Human Rights.
Tatchell adds that the couples’ appeal argues that Britain's twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships “amount to illegal discrimination, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.”
He says the bans violate Articles 8, 12 and 14, which, respectively, give the right to privacy and family life, the right to marry, and the right to nondiscrimination.
The Coalition for Marriage says on its website: “Throughout history and in virtually all human societies marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women. Although death and divorce may prevent it, the evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and a father.”