European marriage equality legal challenge launched today

Posted by Dale McEwan on

"Eight couples fighting to overturn the twin ban on civil marriages for same-sex couples and civil partnerships for heterosexual couples today launched their joint legal challenge despite a minor setback.

"Within the past two months four gay couples applied for civil marriages and four straight couples applied for civil partnerships. All were rejected and requested refusal letters from their respective register offices.

"The eight couples had intended to file their refusal letters to the European Court of Human Rights today, but the arrival of one of the letters has been delayed. Stephanie Munro and Andrew O’Neill have not yet received their refusal letter after applying for a civil partnership at Camden Town Hall, north London, on 8 December.

"Speaking at the launch at King’s College, London, Peter Tatchell, organiser of the joint bid, said: 'This [setback] will not stop the campaign moving forward.'

"The official filing of the refusal letters has now been postponed until January next year.

"The legal challenge is part of the Equal Love campaign coordinated by human rights campaigner Tatchell and organised by the gay rights group Outrage.

"Tatchell added: 'Since there is no difference in the rights and responsibilities involved in marriages of same-sex couples and civil partnerships of heterosexual couples, there is no point or justification in having two mutually exclusive and discriminatory systems.'

“'The bans on civil marriages for same-sex couples and civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples are a form of sexual apartheid -- one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right. In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law.'

"Outlining the legal case, Robert Wintemute, professor of human rights law at King’s College London, said: 'Banning marriage for same-sex couples and civil partnerships for heterosexual couples violates Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.'

“'I’m confident that we have a good chance of persuading the European Court of Human Rights that the UK’s system of segregating couples into ‘separate but equal’ legal institutions violates the Convention.'

“'I would predict that same-sex couples will be granted access to marriage in the UK and that this will be because the UK government will eventually accept that it cannot defend the current discriminatory system.'

"One of the gay couples involved in the campaign is Sharon Ferguson, chief executive officer of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and her partner, Franka Strietzel. They were denied a civil marriage at Greenwich register office in London in November.

"Speaking at the launch today, Ferguson said: 'Marriage is important to us for a number of reasons… it’s about full recognition. It’s about being able to say ‘yes, we are in a socially accepted institution’. '

... "Tatchell added that support from the main political parties for the campaign is increasing.

"He said: 'This is something that even a cash-strapped government could do. Even the Conservative government could change the law in tandem with the Liberal Democrat coalition partners and it would not cost the tax payer a huge amount at all.'”

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