www.ambiente.us JANUARY | ENERO 2011
EQUAL LOVE CAMPAIGN UK
ECHR LEGAL BID ANNOUNCED
by David Equality Watters
In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law
- Peter Tatchell
On the 5th anniversary of the first civil partnerships in England, eight couples, 4
gay and 4 straight announced their intention to file a joint application to the
European Court of Human Rights in a legal bid for same-sex marriage and
heterosexual civil partnership.
The application and legal arguments were outlined by Peter Tatchell, human
rights defender, co-founder of OutRage! and co-ordinator of the Equal Love
campaign and Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law,
King's College London, at a news conference on Tuesday 21 December 2010.
The seminar that followed was chaired and addressed by Lord Anthony Lester
of Herne Hill QC, author of the private member’s bill that inspired the Civil
Partnership Act 2004. He was followed by Professor Anne Barlow, Professor of
Family Law and Policy, University of Exeter; Rev. Carla Grosch
WORDS & IMAGES
Gay & Lesbian Alliance
Over a six week period, starting on Tuesday 2 November with Sharon
Ferguson and her partner Franka Strietzel, eight couples filed applications at their
local register offices. The four same-sex couples applied for civil marriages and
the four heterosexual couples applied for civil partnerships.
At the launch of the campaign, 26 October 2010, the Rev Sharon Ferguson said:
“Franka and I have been together for over two years and we recently started
talking about having our commitment to each other recognized.
“Although I fully appreciate the benefits of civil partnerships, I don’t feel they are
appropriate for us. As chief executive of LGCM, and also a pastor in the
Metropolitan Community Church, I spend my life campaigning for justice and
equality. The simple fact is that no matter how good civil partnerships are with
regard to the legal protections and rights they provide, they are still a separate
system that was put together to stop gay and lesbian people from being able to
“Like most people in this world, we were brought up to believe that one day we’
d fall in love and get married. This is what we want to do and our sexual
orientation should not be an impediment,” she said.
Katherine Doyle added:
“We have been together for nearly five years and would like to formalize 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 matrimonial 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.
be overturned, how this will happen and what his role be in pursuing the legal
"I have no doubt that same-sex couples will be granted equal access to legal
marriage, probably within the next 3 years, as a result of an Act of Parliament.
The Act could be passed after a "declaration of incompatibility" by a UK court
under the Human Rights Act 1998, or a finding of a violation of the European
Convention on Human Rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The only
question will be what to do with civil partnership. It could be abolished, or it could
be extended to different-sex couples. The position of the Equal Love campaign is
that it should be extended. Although civil partnership was created for a negative
reason, to keep same-sex couples out of legal marriage, it can be preserved for a
positive reason, to provide an alternative to all couples, different-sex and same-
sex, who do not want a legal marriage, because of its historical association with
the inequality of women and men."
Letters of rejection are required evidence as these demonstrate to the European
Court that the 8 couples had suffered discrimination based on their sexual
The formal filing of the application to the European Court of Human Rights was
unfortunately postponed, since Camden register office failed, at the last moment,
to provide a valid letter of rejection to one of the heterosexual couples, Stephanie
Munro and Andrew O’Neill, who were refused a civil partnership.
Mr Tatchell opening the European Court case launch news conference
commented on his frustration:
“This postponement is frustrating. It has delayed the formal application but it will
not prevent it. Once we have the final letter of refusal, we will go ahead with the
application, probably in the second week of January,”
-Miller, Minister, St. Columba’s United Reformed Church, Oxford; Professor Cees
van Dam, Visiting Professor, School of Law, Kings College London; Canon Giles
Goddard, Priest in charge, St. John’s Church (Church of England), Waterloo,
London; and Liberal Democrat policy-maker and former MP, Evan Harris.
Prior to the Press
Conference, Mr. Tatchell
shared his thoughts:
"Over the last two months,
four same-sex couples
were refused marriage
licenses at register offices
Petersfield. During the
same period, four
heterosexual couples were
turned away when they applied for civil partnerships in Islington, Camden, Bristol
"All eight couples received letters of refusal from their register offices. We are
using these rejection letters to challenge the exclusion of gay couples from civil
marriage and the denial of civil partnerships to straight couples. Since there is no
difference in the rights and responsibilities involved in gay civil marriages and
heterosexual civil partnerships, there is no justification for having two mutually
exclusive and discriminatory systems.
"Banning black couples from getting married would provoke uproar. The
prohibition on gay marriages should arouse similar outrage.”
Despite the weather, 7 of the 8 couples were also in attendance for this historic
Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive Officer, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement,
spoke on behalf of the four same-sex couples and Katherine Doyle, on behalf of
the four different-sex couples.
When asked what prompted him to support the campaign, Legal Advisor,
Professor Robert Wintemute of the School of Law at Kings College London
"I was becoming increasingly frustrated that equal access to legal marriage
for same-sex couples was on the political agenda in Argentina and Portugal,
but not the UK. When Peter Tatchell of OutRage! highlighted the exclusion of
different-sex couples from civil partnership, I contacted him and suggested that
it was time for a challenge to the entire system of segregating couples into two
legal institutions, with different names but identical rights. A challenge to the
twin bans on same-sex legal marriage and different-sex civil partnership
required couples experiencing both forms of discrimination based on their
sexual orientations. On 2 Nov., 8 couples began challenging the system by
requesting a registration that UK law denies them, solely because of their
sexual orientation. This process will be completed on 14 Dec. We will then
take legal action."
Outlining the legal basis of the Equal Love challenge to the current
proscriptions he said:
"Banning same-sex marriage and different-sex civil partnerships violates
Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights,"
"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 European Convention. I
predict that same-sex couples will be granted access to marriage in the UK.
The government will eventually accept that it cannot defend the current
discriminatory system," he said.
I asked Mr. Wintermute how hopeful he felt that the twin bans would