Equal Marriage Bill: Straight couples refused equality
Ban on heterosexual civil partnerships to remain
Gay couples will have legal advantage under Cameron plan
London - 25 January 2013
“While legalising marriage equality is welcome and commendable, the government’s refusal to end discrimination against straight couples in civil partnership law is flawed and wrong. Opposite-sex couples are legally prohibited from having a civil partnership and for no rational reason David Cameron intends to keep it that way,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
He was commenting on the unveiling of government legislation for equal marriage rights for gay couples today, Friday 25 January: the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
“Despite proclaiming that the legalisation of same-sex civil marriage is driven by the principle of equality, the government’s forthcoming legislation will retain the inequality of the current legal ban on heterosexual civil partnerships.
“This will mean that for the first time in British law gay couples will have legal privileges over heterosexual couples.
“Some straight men and women don’t like the patriarchal traditions of marriage. They’d prefer a civil partnership. Why shouldn’t they have that option?” he queried.
In the government’s public consultation last year, 61% of respondents supported extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Only 24% opposed (see page 42):
Mr Tatchell has spearheaded the campaign for same-sex marriage for 20 years. He currently coordinates the Equal Love campaign and its legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which is challenging the UK’s twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. See here: http://bit.ly/xJumfO
“Under government legislation, there will be two forms of official state recognition for lesbian and gay couples: the present system of civil partnerships and the new system of civil marriages. Heterosexual couples will have only one option: marriage. They will be subjected to legal inequality and discrimination.
“This is very wrong. I support straight equality,” said Mr Tatchell.
Together with members of OutRage! Peter Tatchell pioneered the campaign for equal marriage on 19 March 1992, when he organised the first challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage. Five same-sex couples from OutRage! filed marriage licence applications at Marylebone Register Office in London. They were refused.
While most LGBT organisations accepted the second best option of civil partnerships in 2004, Mr Tatchell continued the campaign for marriage equality.
As coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, together with Professor Robert Wintemute of Kings College London he organised the legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights in February 2011.
Read the application to the ECHR here: http://bit.ly/xJumfO
“This legal case helped prompt the government to commit itself three months later to end the ban on same-sex marriage,” added Mr Tatchell.
“Our European Court case also seeks to overturn the prohibition on opposite-sex civil partnerships. This aspect of the legal case will continue, despite the government’s legislation of marriage equality.
“My four decades of human rights activism have been based on the principle of equality. I can’t accept equal rights for gay couples but not for heterosexual couples.
“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. Straight men and women also deserve equality.
“Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to all couples, without any sexual orientation discrimination.
“In the Netherlands, where civil marriages and civil partnerships are available to all couples - gay and straight – the vast majority of civil partnerships are between heterosexual men and women. Some straight people prefer them.
“If civil partnerships were made available to heterosexual couples in the UK there would probably be a similar significant take up.
“This issue is not about numbers. It is about equality. Even if only a handful of straight people wanted a civil partnership, they are entitled to have one,” said Mr Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Five same-sex couples from the LGBT human rights group OutRage! filed applications for marriages licences at Marylebone Register Office in London, 19 March 1992. They were refused.
Photo credit: Steve Mayes. Permission required for media usage.