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Straight civil partnership couple’s MP to raise issue in parliament

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  1. Simon Murphy 26 Nov 2009, 12:07pm

    Glad to see this story is being published all over the mainstream media.

    If straight people want to have a CP they should be allowed.
    If gay people want to get married they should be allowed.

    I’m glad to see the whole ingenious ‘separate but equal’ Civil Partnership plan is now backfiring.

    Did the government really think that LGBT people were going to embrace a ‘separate but (not quite) equal’ legal status for their relationships.

    And I’m glad to see Outrage is supporting this couple.
    Stonewall are obviously far too busy trying to force churches to perform civil partnerships or whatever irrelevant nonsense they usually get up to.

  2. Vincent Poffley 26 Nov 2009, 12:10pm

    While this is definitely progress, I can’t help but notice that it took a straight couple speaking up about it to get an MP to raise the issue in the House of Commons, while YEARS of campaigning by hundreds of LGBT groups nationwide hasn’t achieved a thing.

    When the gays are clamouring for equality, it can be ignored. When two straight people put on a publicity stunt, suddenly it’s a big issue. One wonders why Emily Thornbury MP waited ’till now to speak up. Surely there are thousands of gay people in her constituency who have been outraged for years that they can’t get married? Where were all the gay MPs in this? Why didn’t they raise the issue sooner?

  3. Great news . . . media coverage . . . progress in action.

    With thanks to a wonderful freethinking couple – Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle,

  4. “One wonders why Emily Thornbury MP waited ’till now to speak up.”

    Exactly what sprang into my mind too, Vincent. I hope this issue goes to the European Court of Human Rights. They ruled favourably on the religious opt-out as reported on Pink News, and I’d hope that they’d see that this is outright discrimination based solely on one’s sexuality. Civil marriage is a legal matter and has nothing to do with any religion and I’m not happy that the law treats LGBT people differently.

  5. Vincent, while I share your bemusement at the fact that it might take a straight couple to win marriage for LGBT people, their effort is commendable. I haven’t heard of gay couples doing the same thing these two did: go down to the Registry Office and try to register to get married, then threaten to take the issue to the courts.

  6. Tim Hopkins 26 Nov 2009, 12:38pm

    Valerio, one couple who did try to get the law to accept their same-sex marriage were Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who married in Canada, and then went to court to get the UK to recognise their marriage as a marriage, not as a CP. Unfortunately they lost and could not afford to appeal.

    See their website for more details.

  7. Tim Hopkins 26 Nov 2009, 12:47pm

    While court action is great, I think that the way we will get the law changed is through Parliamentary campaigning.

    The reason I think that is that the European Court of Human Rights gives a very wide “margin of appreciation” to each country to decide its own marriage law. It took 20 years of cases to the Court asking for the right of trans people to marry in their transitioned gender, before the Court changed its mind in 2001 and said “yes you do have that right”. By then, most European countries gave the right already (but not the UK, surprise surprise).

    So far, only 5 European countries allow same-sex marriage, and I don’t think the Euro Court will be prepared to say it’s a right that must be given across Europe until a lot more countries do.

    I know it sounds odd that the Court should decide its rulings based on what the majority of European countries do, but that is the way the Euro Convention on Human Rights works, especially on the marriage article, article 12.

    I’m not saying court cases are a waste of time – far from it, I think they are very valuable for putting pressure on. But I am saying that we shouldn’t rely on the courts helping us here – we need a major Parliamentary campaign, for a change to the law by Parliament.

  8. Comment 6 – Thanks for that link, Tim Hopkins. It’s a pity that they couldn’t afford to appeal. To me, the UK government should either accept all marriages performed in Canada as valid or none. That stinks of discrimination, and is offensive. It’s like saying that they’re not really married at all.

    You often comment on gay marriage related matters here. Do you have a link to a website or some campaign, seeing as Stonewall can’t be bothered to push for marriage equality?

  9. John(Derbyshire) 26 Nov 2009, 1:20pm

    This is all a waste of time-as when the Conservatives get in next may -they will actually be PROMOTING marriage to the exclusion of civil partnerships. So-if I were all of you- I would be campaigning NOW just for the right to hang on to civil partnerships for gay couples. Believe you me-when Iain Duncan Smith gets his hands on power- gay people will be the FIRST in his “line of fire”. You have been warned!

  10. Simon Murphy 26 Nov 2009, 2:13pm

    Iain Duncan Smith is not to be feared.

    The Conservative Party’s Euro-alliance with the fascist Law and Justice Party in Poland (and especially with the rumoured former neo-Nazi MEP Michal Kaminski) is actually a blessing in disguise for the LGBT population.

    It has raised the issue of Conservatives’ real attitudes towards all minorities to a whole new level. Their alliance with extremist and fascist parties in Europe is being watched not just by LGBT people but by jewish groups; women’s groups etc. There is an awareness that thanks to their history and their current links to homophobic extremists that they have to be monitored closely.

    We are all aware of the Tories links to extremist parties in Europe so we can be better prepared to condemn and campaign against whatever vicious plans that the Duncan-Smith creature has up his sleeves.

  11. “when Iain Duncan Smith gets his hands on power- gay people will be the FIRST in his “line of fire”. You have been warned!”

    and there’s also that red blond person they mentioned on Newsnight yesterday

  12. Tim, I’m well aware of that case, however the premise of that case was different from the current one as you said. The couple in question had got married in Canada and then asked to have their marriage recognised in the UK, which it wasn’t, they did not seek to be married in the UK. It may seem a technicality but sometimes legal battles vary greatly in results based on what the premises are. As far as I’m aware no gay couple has sought to register as married in the UK (at least not in the last few years) as we’ve seen happen in the US.

    What Freeman and Doyle are trying to do is a novel approach that I’m surprised non UK couple has tired.

    Lately a number of same-sex couples across Italy have used this same approach in the face of an inert government and in two instances, the judges have sided with the couples and asked the Supreme Court to find in favour of same-sex marriage, something which is likely to take a long time for the court to even look at.

    What I’m saying is the approach is valid and I’m surprised so little is done in the UK. We should praise this couple instead of accusing them of seeking publicity.

  13. Tim Hopkins 26 Nov 2009, 2:38pm

    Iris, I’m afraid that apart from that link for Sue Wilkinson and her partner’s website, I only have links for the Scottish campaign:

    The Equal Marriage website was established by NUS Scotland and will probably become the main website for the whole campaign in Scotland.

    The Equality Network has a policy page on marriage, which includes other links to material.

  14. “As far as I’m aware no gay couple has sought to register as married in the UK”

    Let me rephrase that to make it clearer:

    “As far as I’m aware, no same-sex couple has sought to marry in the UK”.

  15. This young couple demonstrate what is GREAT about the UK (or, since Wales and Scotland seem so intent on completely breaking away), what is GREAT about ENGLAND.

    What they are doing may well lead to a chain of events that will result in gays and lesbians finally having access to the hallowed institution of marriage.

  16. “Iris, I’m afraid that apart from that link for Sue Wilkinson and her partner’s website, I only have links for the Scottish campaign…”

    Thank you, Tim Hopkins. I’ve got that bookmarked to look through properly later. Thank you for the link to the Equality Network too :)

  17. Anthony Bermon 26 Nov 2009, 3:44pm

    Eddy No. 16 – Not everyone in Scotland wants it to become independent, I certainly don’t. In fact, I am proud to be both Scottish and British. Also, the SNP government are the extremely homophobic and if they’re any measure of what an independent Scotland would be like, then No Thanks!

  18. kiwi.fruit 26 Nov 2009, 5:11pm

    Islington? Surely Lillian Ladelle would have jumped at the chance to “CP” them?

  19. When will they put the “quality” back in “equality”?

  20. I actually think the actions of Doyle and Freeman (and Outrage) could badly backfire on the gay community.

    What if the next Tory government calls Doyle and Freeman’s bluff and does grant straight couples the right to CP and at the same time still bars gays and lesbians from civil marriage. It would give exactly the excuse the enemies of CP want to water down the institution of civil partnership. The unique value of British civil partnership (as oposed to civil unions in other parts of the world) is that it is EQUIVALENT to civil marriage. British CP is, in effect, de facto gay marriage.

    While it would be nice for the government to do a small semantic correction by changing the name of civil partnership to gay marriage, Peter Tatchell and Outrage should nevertheless be very careful not to hand to the enemies of the gay communitity an excuse to undermine the hard won institution of civil partnership (while at the same time reducing further the chances of full civil gay marriage).

  21. Joe Johnston 26 Nov 2009, 6:22pm

    Soon it will dawn on the loud-mouthed and unrepresentative gay activists on these boards that, if this couple are successful in obtaining their Civil Partnership, it removes what little argument there ever was for gay people being able to marry (as opposed to having Civil Partnership) It is only the gay lobbyists who think that Civil Partnerships are somehow ‘second class’, the rest of us, gay and straight think it is a perfectly acceptable expression of the status that many of us fought for over many years. In other words, the right to be different but treated equally.

  22. A bit of a niaeve question – but what is the legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage conducted in a registry office? Apart from the obvious gay/straight difference?

  23. Mihangel apYrs 26 Nov 2009, 8:54pm

    CP is barely recognised across the CHannel, let alone more widely!

    France is to change its laws concerning partner inheritance and tax, vaste swathes of the EU don’t notice it, elements of English law ignore it: it isn’t marriage, just the best we could wring out of a labour govt in hock to various religions

  24. Joe Johnston,
    “In other words, the right to be different but treated equally.”

    This is an argument for marriage equality not an argument for segregating different groups of people into different institutions. Denying gays the freedom to marry and instead forcing us to have a legally deficient union (CPs are by no means equal when it comes to pensions and international recognition) no more celebrates differences than forcing black people to use separate water fountains does.

  25. jamestoronto 27 Nov 2009, 5:14am

    This whole Katherine and Tom thing has opened up a floodgate of comments from every direction.

    While I do not think the couple are publicity-junkies, I do find it odd that a complaint from ONE – that is right ONE – straight couple should become news not just in the UK but around the world. Is it not strange how for two millennia gay couples have been denied absolutely EVERY right out there including the right to live and not a voice was raised until the last couple of decades. Suddenly, a straight couple are denied civil partnership registry and all hell breaks loose! Just an observation.

    There were several references throughout the blog to court challenges and to events, etc. in Canada (with reference to the Wilkinson-Kitzinger marriage challenge in the UK).

    Court challenges are the way to go in many jurisdictions around the world – especially in federal type states like Canada, USA, Australia). Keep challenging, don’t give up at one or two losses and say “Oh well, we tried, ” and then give up. After a couple of decades of court challenges across Canada, with so, so many ending up as losses – until finally a wedge was open by a court in BC in May of 2003. That led to a landmark decision in Ontario in June 2003 that opened the judicial floodgates in our country. Within two years, SSM was legal in 9 of the 10 provinces and 2 of the 3 territories simply through court challenges.

    But court challenges work in unitary states as well. Examples, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Montevideo are cities in Latin American states where it worked – and now Uruguay following Montevideo’s experience is considering SSM.

    Oddly enough, some of our provinces experimented with the Civil Union/Civil Partnership (Nova Scotia and Québec come to mind) in order to stave off the “marriage problem”) but they did just not take off here. Since most Canadian provinces already had common-law marriages/relationships laws already, it seemed pointless.

    Like the music says “WE WANT IT ALL OR NOT AT ALL”

    “You gotta love it!!” Canada recognises all marriages between any two PEOPLE who are wed in Canada (NOTE no citizenship or residency required) and it also recognises all marriages in any other jurisdiction where such marriage is indeed legal. But the federal government never recognised civil partnership. So while the Wilkinson-Kitzinger marriage is legal here in Canada but not in the UK, however, if they take up a Civil Partnership in the UK it will be recognised the but not back in Canada – but they are already married here so what the hay?

  26. Tim Hopkins 27 Nov 2009, 9:55am

    Joe Johnston, the campaign here in Scotland is not about taking away people’s right to be different. That is why the campaign is to keep civil partnership, and to have both it and marriage available to everyone as choices.

    The right to choose to be different is fundamental and should be strongly defended. But being forced into a different legal status whne you don’t want that is wrong.

  27. Jon: “What is the legal differences between a civil partnership and a marriage conducted in a registry office?”

    The answer, Jon, to which nobody on here actually wants to admit to is: *SWEET FANNY ADAMS*

    All this squabbling is simply about labelling, because the government agreed with gay marriage, but didn’t want to be seen pissing off the bible-bashers, so they gave it a different name.

    This couple appear to be a pair of media seeking idiots out on a PR job, and I wouldnt be at all suprised if the whole thing was a set-up by a bunch of right-on gay lefties like Peter Tatchell to highlight “The enormity of the continued injustice and inequality heaped upon the gay community”. (ah, poor diddums)

    What a complete and utter f_cking farce.

  28. Bless them! why don’t they just get married and stop fannying about!!!

  29. RobN, if the government had agreed with gay marriage they would have allowed gay couples to marry not forced them to accept a sub-standard substitute.

    There are numerous ways a CP is deficient to a civil marriage only the gay capitulators refuse to acknowledge them and instead repeat the meme that the battle over equal marriage rights is simply fight about nomenclature.

  30. Moam…

    there is another thread on this and I left that because some disruption was coming from a person descending to offence and hijacking civil discussion!

    I agree, there are some differences between CP and Marriage (don’t tell my partner about there being no obligation to have sex though, please). But they are surely minor compared to the alternative.

    The alternative, back when CPs came into existence was nothing at all. Pushing for marriage would have caused the campaign to fail – that’s pretty clear. So we would not have had CPs, and parliamentary process and time being what it is, the whole thing would have gone onto the back burner until Brussels nudged us again.

    There is a group who feel that we were sold a pup. That those at the pointy end of the campaign gave up and took second best. It is a view sometimes heatedly espoused in the other thread. But it is wrong, in fact. The prospect of our getting, marriage, back then, was zero. The Church(as) and the forces of conservatism were, infuriatingly but predictably, intent on blocking it. So, while there was strong political momentum behind getting, at least CP, the peers took all that was available at the time. Sometimes, as then, pragmatism is the only course.

    Test it now. Ask this question. If you could give back the right to have CPs now, against the right to continue for marriage, would you do it?

    I wouln’t for sure.

    Instead, let’s keep what we have hard won, and fight for the next step.

  31. Robert, ex pat Brit 27 Nov 2009, 4:56pm

    Mal, even if the next Tory government allowed straights to form civil partnerships, I think that would only make the argument for full marriage equality that more compelling. I think it would in fact expedite marriage for gay people sooner, rather than later. Having straights allowed to form partnerships would set a precedent and easier to win the argument for our right to marry.

    Lets be realistic about civil partnerships There is NO universal standard across Europe or in the western world. British CPs are more equal than the French version, PACs, that do not convey nearly as many of the rights of CPS, ditto other EU states with some semblance of same-sex equality laws. How on earth can any of them be equal to marriage with some having more rights and others having very few? It makes no sense unless there is a universal EU standard, until that happens, portability doesn’t really work the way its supposed to as it does for marriage. CPs will NEVER be the universal standard which only proves they are not equal.

  32. Anthony Bermon #18 wrote: “Not everyone in Scotland wants it to become independent, I certainly don’t…the SNP government are the extremely homophobic and if they’re any measure of what an independent Scotland would be like, then No Thanks!”

    This is interesting. I would like to hear more. I saw the SNP Nicola woman last night on “Question Time” and there’s something about her that frightens me. But that’s just a feeling. Why did you say they are “extremely homophobic”? And do you know if gays in Scotland generally understand this?

  33. Peter Tatchell 27 Nov 2009, 10:52pm

    Tom and Katherine’s campaign supports and complements the bid for same-sex marriage. Once CPs are open to straights, the morality of excluding LGBTs from marriage will weaken. The case for same-sex civil marriage will strengthen.

    Why have no lesbian or gay couples sought to challenge the ban on same-sex civil marriage, some have asked. They have.

    In March 1992 – 17 years ago – OutRage! organised five same sex couples to file applications for civil marriage at Marylebone registry office. They were refused. When OutRage! appealed to the LGBT community to donate to a legal fund to challenge the refusal, we got very little support (sadly). So we could not pursue it. But these five couples will go down in history as true pioneers for LGBT equality.

  34. Speak and the Devil appears.
    This whole affair stinks of rigging.

    17 years ago, there was a lot wrong with gay equality, but bit by bit, the gap has closed, so now people squabble over the minutiae left. The bottom line is we have (legally) pretty well everything that most of us have wanted. Unfortunately public acceptance will take a lot longer.

  35. Robert, ex pat Brit 28 Nov 2009, 5:36pm

    JamesinToronto, this only proves that civil partnerships aren’t that portable once you leave the UK. I’m glad Toronto doesn’t recognise them, why should they since our government doesn’t recognise Canadian same-sex marriages even for Brits who marry there and return to the UK. Canada is absolutely right and far ahead of us.

  36. Robert, ex pat Brit 28 Nov 2009, 9:53pm

    RobN if you consider same-sex marriage (Not CPs) as minutiae, then explain why seven countries and several states in America have abandoned their civil partnership equivalents for real marriage, a trend that will continue to grow? Why? Only one other western nation, Ireland, is about to mimic CPs with fewer rights so why aren’t there more western countries doing it if they’re so equal? Don’t be so insular, look outside the box and see the larger picture. CPs will NEVER be the universal standard for gay couples around the world or as portable.

  37. Robert, Ex-Brit: When have I EVER stated that Gay marriage / CP is unimportant? Maybe ignorant f_ckwits like yourself should actually READ posts before commenting.

    My argument all along is that there is virtually NO Difference between the two, and all this bitching is simply about what the f_ck the damn thing is called. Most people of my age would have thought the concept unimaginable even 30 years ago, yet it is now a reality, yet STILL some ungrateful sh!tebags still continue to moan about what they haven’t got.

    It reminds me of one of Douglas Adam’s books where all the dross of society like telephone sanitisers and estate agents are dumped on a planet, and people discussing how they are going to survive, whilst all they gay hairdressers try to make curling tongs from sticks and argue about what colour the cave they are in should be…

  38. Good heavens. RobN you’re a Douglas Adams reader! There is hope for the world, yet! I so missed you all last week when I was ill!

    Seems to me that everyone here has a point. It IS a matter of semantics. it shouldn’t really matter if its a CP or a Marriage. The important thing is the legal protection a couple have with a registered partnership.

    BUT, I think of the reaction of a straight friend of mine when I called the partner of a gay friend ‘his husband’. She clearly felt the word inappropriate and questioned whether a couple with a civil partnership were ‘married’ in the same sense and could use such words. It struck me that some straight people think CP IS a lesser form of marriage and not the same thing. And by thinking that, they devalue a gay partnership as ‘less’ than a hetero marriage. The only solution to that, in my opinion, is to get rid of the distinction.

  39. Rose, I agree with you completely. If there is a distinction, there is a difference. I think this should be obvious to everybody. We can keep saying all we want that they’re the same but if they’re not the same (if they are separate institutions) they are clearly NOT THE SAME.

    It’s quite farcical that we should argue about something where the answer is already in the premise.

  40. Robert, ex pat Brit 4 Dec 2009, 9:13pm

    The reason why same-sex marriage was successful in five American states is that gay couples did what others here are suggesting. Applying for a marriage licence before it was legal in those states and taking out class action suits in the state courts. It started the whole marriage equality movement. Its about time Brit gay couples did the same to get the ball finally rolling, although the complacency is of course attributed to civil partnerships construed as unofficial marriages, though in reality they are not by any stretch of the imagination.

    Of course we need straights to fight this battle with us, who else is in the majority and controls government? Straights! We need to court as many straight allies as possible to form a large marriage equality movement. We can’t do it alone. Forget Stonewall, they’re useless and not even in the picture. This lovely straight couple are to be commended and we should be supporting them as much as we can.

    Tim, you’re right, parliamentary action is the only way we can address this inequality in the law and with mounting straight support, we may just be able to do it. The squeaky wheel gets the most response. We need to adopt the American “can do” approach to things, not sit on the sidelines and shrug our shoulders. Get proactive, shake a few cages, make a few phone calls, petition, contact your representatives and keep the fire of full equality burning. We deserve nothing less.

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