Lesbian couple in direct challenge to UK marriage law

Posted by James Sanders on pinkpaper.com:

"A lesbian couple will apply for a civil marriage license tomorrow in a direct challenge to the UK's legal ban on the freedom to marry.

"If their application is refused, the couple plan to take legal action in the courts to strike down the prohibition on marriage equality.

"Rev Sharon Ferguson, 52, and her partner Franka Strietzel, 49, will submit their marriage application at Greenwich Register Office at the Town Hall in Woolwich tomorrow, Tuesday 2 November, at 11.15am.

"Their application is the first of eight register office applications which will seek to overturn the twin bans on marriages of same-sex couples and heterosexual civil partnerships.

"This new Equal Love campaign is coordinated by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and sponsored by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!

"The campaign's legal advisor is Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

"Rev Ferguson is an ordained minister of religion and chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Franka Strietzel is a corporate trainer.

"Rev Ferguson said: 'Franka and I have been together for over two years. We recently started talking about having our commitment to each other recognised.'

"'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.'

"'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 marry.'

"'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.

"'We see the Equal Love campaign as a quest for justice; morally equivalent to the campaigns to overturn the bans on inter-racial marriage in apartheid South Africa and the Deep South of the USA,' said Equal Love coordinator Peter Tatchell.

"'Starting on Tuesday 2 November, eight couples will file applications at their local register offices.  Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships. Every week until 14 December, one couple will make an application.'

"'If the couples are turned away, we plan to take legal action. Denying them equal treatment is contrary to the Human Rights Act.'

"'Our legal team will argue in the courts that the bans on marriages of same-sex couples and heterosexual civil partnerships are unlawful and unjustified discrimination.'

"'In a democracy, gay and straight couples should be equal before the law. Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination,' he said.

"The Equal Love campaign's legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

"'By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, and different-sex couples from civil partnership, the UK Government is discriminating on the ground of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act,' said Professor Wintemute. 

... "'The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy.  There is no longer any justification for excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage and different-sex couples from civil partnership. It's 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 inferior to heterosexual people,' he said."

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