Fourth UK gay marriage bid rejected

Richard and David will now take legal action; Gay marriage ban violates Human Rights Act, they say; 'Equal Love' campaign seeks gay marriages & straight civil partnerships

3 December, 2010

David Watters and Richard Hull. Photo: Chris Houston
LONDON — A gay couple's application for a civil marriage licence was today refused by Greenwich register office in south-east London.

David Watters (40) and Richard Hull (49) were turned away on the grounds that UK law states that marriage partners have to be male and female.

Richard and David now plan to challenge this restriction in the courts, arguing that the ban on same-sex marriage violates the Human Rights Act – specifically Articles 14 (protection against discrimination), 12 (the right to marry) and 8 (the right to respect for family life).

Responding to the refusal of their request for a marriage licence, David Watters said:

"Being refused the licence didn't exactly come as a surprise. After all, the five other couples who have gone before us have been turned away. What does surprise me is that society still tolerates homophobic discrimination in marriage law.

"My emotions are mixed. There is a great sense of sadness and anger that my love for Richard is not accorded the same respect and rights as the love that heterosexuals share.

"It is overwhelming to be part of such an historic campaign. I have an immense feeling of hope and positivity about the eventual outcome. Richard and I are here for the long haul. The justice of our claim for marriage equality will win out sooner or later," he said.

His partner Richard Hull added:

"Like David, I am neither surprised nor shocked at the outcome today. But I am annoyed and upset that I cannot celebrate my love for David by going through a marriage ceremony; instead we are expected to settle for what I regard as second best, a civil partnership.

"Our love is no less than that shared by a heterosexual couple. Speaking as a gay man who once had a heterosexual marriage, I feel cheated. I was allowed to get married when I was engaged to a woman but I am denied this option when I want to marry David.

"I feel privileged to be joining the other couples on the Equal Love Campaign, knowing that we will eventually change the law, so that I can celebrate my love for David by marrying him. I don't want to settle for a civil partnership which, for us, is not an adequate option," he concluded.

David Watters is a personal development consultant, writer on equality issues and author of Never blend in: The legacy of Harvey Milk. Richard Hull is a catering manager and chef. They have been together in a relationship for six years.

The couple's bid is part of the new Equal Love campaign, which is seeking to overturn the twin prohibitions on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

The 'Equal Love' campaign is coordinated by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and sponsored by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.

"A similar ban on Asian or Jewish marriages would provoke fierce condemnation and mass protests. So why are so many people silent about the ban on gay marriages?" queried Equal Love coordinator Peter Tatchell, who attended the register office with Richard and David today.

"We see the Equal Love campaign as a historic 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.

"Prohibiting same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships is a form of sexual apartheid - one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don't make a right.

"David and Richard are the sixth of eight couples to challenge these twin bans, and the fourth same-sex couple to do so.

"They are the second same-sex couple to file an application at Greenwich register office. The first same-sex couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka, applied on 2 November and were also rejected.

"A total of 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. One couple will make an application every week until 14 December.

"We expect that all eight couples will be turned away. They will then launch a joint legal action to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law," said Mr Tatchell.

The Equal Love campaign's legal advisor is Professor 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. The twin bans violate Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life)," 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. – Issued by OutRage!

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