A straight couple who tried to apply for a civil partnership this morning have said they are willing to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, both 25, arrived at Islington Town Hall in London this morning to register their intention to have a civil partnership.

As they had anticipated, they were given a letter of refusal.

Head of democratic services John Lynch wrote: “I do not wish to comment on your views on marriage but would point out that part one of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 states that a civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex and therefore we would not be able to take notice of your proposed civil partnership.”

Speaking outside the building, the couple said: “Today we have been refused access to a legal institution because of our sexuality. We are saddened and disappointed.

“In a democratic state, all institutions should be open to all people.

“We are going to take legal advice and take it to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.”

It is thought that the ban may breach the European Convention of Human Rights with regard to articles eight, 12 and 14. These refer to a right to privacy, marriage and freedom from discrimination.

Doyle told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s hard because we can be seen as a straight couple wanting to colonise civil partnerships, in a way. So we were expecting some kind of negativity from the gay community. But we haven’t had any.

“The fact is that no gay people are really campaigning for equal marriage. I mean, we’re coming in as a straight couple campaigning for straight couples’ rights. We can’t really campaign on behalf of the gay community. But by implication, we hope that marriage will be opened up both ways.”

She added: “I remember talking to gay colleagues and them saying ‘but we like civil partnerships, it’s just for us’, and I think that’s fine but you should have the choice. Whether a lot of gay couples want marriage or straight couples want civil partnerships, that’s beside the point. The fact is you should have the choice in a democratic society.”

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who is supporting the couple, said: “Tom and Katherine’s application is supported by myself and OutRage!. We have long campaigned against homophobic discrimination but we are equally opposed to discrimination against heterosexual couples. The law should be equal for everyone.

“I think a legal appeal’s going to be quite difficult because the government will argue that they have the option of a civil marriage. That’s true, but for Tom and Katherine and myself the issue is discrimination. Quite clearly, a heterosexual couple cannot have a civil partnership just as a homosexual couple cannot have marriage. Two wrongs do not make a right and we want equality in law for everyone.”