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Gay and straight couples to challenge UK marriage equality ban

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  1. I’m excited about this campaign and I hope that justice is done. What can people do to support the campaign?

  2. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 2:18pm

    I would be amazed if the English courts made such a political decision.

    Holy matrimony under the common law was the estate into which a man and a woman entered when they consented and contracted to cohabit with each other and each other only: Book of Common Prayer, Form of Solemnization of Matrimony; Harrod v Harrod (1854) 1 K & J 4.

    According to the doctrine of the Church of England, from which the law on marriage in England and Wales derived, marriage is and was in its nature a union permanent and life-long, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity: Revised Canons Ecclesiastical, Canon B30 para 1.

    The only kind of marriage which English law recognises and has ever recognised is one which is essentially the voluntary union for life of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others: Nachimson v Nachimson [1930] P 217, CA; Hyde v Hyde and Woodmansee (1866) LR 1 P & D 130; Re Bethell, Bethell v Hildyard (1888) 38 ChD 220; Sowa v Sowa [1961] P 70, [1961] 1 All ER 687, CA.

    If two persons of the same sex contrived to go through the formalities of a ceremony of marriage, the ceremony was not a marriage ceremony at all, but it had been held that the court in such circumstances was precluded from granting purely declaratory relief but had to grant a nullity decree: Corbett v Corbett (otherwise Ashley) [1971] P 83, [1970] 2 All ER 33.

    More recently, Susan Wilkinson applied for a declaration as to her marital status. She and her female partner had married under the law of British Columbia which recognised as valid marriages between persons of the same sex. The UK recognised her relationship as a civil partnership and not a marriage. She brought a claim in the High Court: Wilkinson v (1) Katzinger (2) Attorney General and Lord Chancellor (2007) 1 FLR 295; [2006] EWHC 2022 (Fam).

    This held that The Civil Partnership Act 2004 accorded same sex relationships all the rights, responsibilities, benefits and advantages of civil marriage save the name. To the extent that by reason of that distinction it had discriminated against same sex partners, that discrimination had a legitimate aim, was reasonable and proportionate and fell within the margin of appreciation accorded to Convention States.

  3. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 2:22pm

    Relevant decisions of the European Court of Human Rights were rehearsed in the Wilkinson case referred to above:

    In Estevez v Spain (ECtHR, 10 May 2001) a homosexual man claimed that the Spanish state’s failure to pay him a social security allowance payable only to “surviving spouses”, after the death of his partner, violated Article 14 in conjunction with Article 8. This claim was rejected. So far as respect for family life under Article 8 was concerned, the court held (at p.4) that:

    “… Despite the growing tendency in a number of European states towards a legal and judicial recognition of stable de facto partnerships between homosexuals, this is, given the existence of little common ground between the Contracting States, an area in which they will enjoy a wide margin of appreciation… Accordingly the applicant’s relationship with his late partner does not fall within Article 8 in so far as that provision protects the right to respect for family life.”

    The court also held that, whether or not the complaint was within the scope of Article 8 in relation to private life (which the court did not expressly decide), the claim under that head was also ill-founded because the Spanish legislation had:

    “a legitimate aim, which is the protection of the family based on marriage bonds (see, mutatis mutandis, the Marcks v Belgium judgment of 13 June 1979, Series A No. 31.¶ 40). The court considers that the difference in treatment found can be considered to fall within the state’s margin of appreciation…”

    In Karner v Austria (2003) 38 EHHR 528 , on facts not unlike those in Mata Estevez concerning the right of the surviving same-sex partner seeking succession to a tenancy, the court stated as follows in relation to the margin of appreciation:

    “The court can accept that the protection of family in the traditional sense is, in principle, a weighty and legitimate reason which might justify a difference in treatment. It remains to be ascertained whether, in the circumstances of the case, the principle of proportionality has been respected.
    The aim of protecting the family in the traditional sense is rather abstract and a broad variety of concrete measures can be used to implement it. In cases in which the margin of appreciation afforded to Member States is narrow as [is] the position where there is a difference in treatment based on sex or sexual orientation, the principle of proportionality does not merely require that the matter chosen is in principle suited for realising the aim sought. It must also be shown that it was necessary to exclude persons living in a homosexual relationship from the scope of [the relevant provision]… in order to achieve that aim.”

    Finally, in B & L v United Kingdom (App. No. 36536/02), 13 September 2005 the ECtHR stated at paragraph 36:

    “Article 12 expressly provides for regulation of marriage by national law and given the sensitive moral choices concerned and the importance to be attached to the protection of children and the fostering of secure family environments, this court must not rush to substitute its own judgment in place of the authorities that are best placed to assess and respond to the needs of society.”

    I would have thought that gay marriage is best achieved by political rather than legal means.

  4. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 2:30pm

    I’m afraid, the more I read, the worse it gets:

    Rees v United Kingdom (1986) 9 EHRR 56 para 49:

    “In the Court’s opinion, the right to marry guaranteed by Article 12, refers to the traditional marriage between persons of opposite biological sex. This appears also from the wording of the Article which makes it clear that Article 12 is mainly concerned to protect marriage as the basis of the family.”

    Also Cossey v UK (1990) 13 EHRR 622 at 642, in which the European Court of Human Rights stated, in relation to the rights of transsexuals:

    “Although some Contracting States would now regard as valid a marriage between a person in Miss Cossey’s situation and a man, the developments which have occurred to date cannot be said to evidence any general abandonment of the traditional concept of marriage. In these circumstances, the court does not consider that it is open to take a new approach to the interpretation of Article 12 on the point at issue.”

    In Sheffield and Horsham v UK (1998) 27 EHRR 163 at para 66, the European Court of Human Rights stated:

    “The right to marry guaranteed by Article 12 refers to the traditional marriage between persons of the opposite sex. This appears also from the wording of the Article which makes it clear that Article 12 is mainly concerned to protect marriage as the basis of the family. Furthermore, Article 12 lays down that the exercise of this right should be subject to the national laws of the Contracting States. The limitations thereby introduced must not restrict or reduce the right in such a way or to such an extent that the very essence of the right is impaired. However, the legal impediment in the United Kingdom on the marriage of persons who are not of the opposite sex cannot be said to have an effect of this kind.”

  5. Andrew Godfrey 25 Oct 2010, 2:52pm

    Whether or not this challenge succeeds, it will make a powerful statement about the strength of feeling on the issue of marriage equality in the LGB&T community and beyond. So good luck to everyone involved!

    It’s a shame Stonewall won’t even support the principle of marriage equality – and reacted with hostility when they were approached by Tom Freeman/Katherine Doyle (and earlier by Sue Wilkinson/Celia Kitzinger). Everyone involved in the Equal Love campaign has called on Stonewall to support marriage equality – Peter Tatchell, Tom Freeman, Katherine Doyle, Sharon Ferguson, Robert Wintemute. If you’re tired of Stonewall’s excuses for not supporting equality, demonstrate at the V&A on 4th November.

  6. This new campaignn is great.

    It shows how irrelevant and unncessary Stonewall has become.

  7. Dave Chameleon and Theresa [DIS]May are busy taking money from the poor and giving to their rich cronies. Gay civil rights are their last concern, and when it comes to their attention, they tend to behave as tories-AKA-thenastyparty do. I just hope their homophobia doesn’t block the judiciary. Now we have a ConDemN coalition filled with robbers, bullies and homophobes, one can only hope the marriage equality case will slip through their nasty homophobic net, hopefully when they’re too distracted checking their looting.

  8. Stonewall will balk at it, no question about that as will many of its membership. Cameron will cringe and do nothing but defer to Summerskill for the final word.

    Civil marriage is NOT holy matrimony nor does it mandate that procreation to be a prerequisite in order to obtain a marriage licence. To use that argument as a justification to barr gay couples from marrying, the same would have to apply to opposite sex couples who elect not to procreate as well as those who can’t. Ten far more enlightened countries realised that separate is not equal nor is conferring similar rights under a different name. It begs the question, if civil partnerships are entirely equal to civil marriage which they are not arguably, why aren’t they the norm for LGBT people around the world? Why did the majority of those ten countries abandon them and why will that number continue to grow? It seems that straight political leaders and their respective governments have figured it out in the ten countries, Cameron probably won’t and will of course more than likely defer to Summerskill who hasn’t a clue either even though they’re outnumbered. That ridiculous £ figure he threw out by allowing same-sex marriage never came up in any of the countries who legalised it. Another red herring wedge issue for the Tories to use as ammunition to add to the roadblock to marriage.

  9. Patrick---01 25 Oct 2010, 3:22pm

    Bebert – what a load of stupid comments.

    You are just using this comments section for a little anti Tory rant.

    In the “ConDemN” coalition are the Liberal Democrats, who are the ONLY of the 3 major political parties who support same-sex marriage as part of OFFICIAL policy (Labour DO NOT yet).

    The Tories have it as official policy that they will consider the case for marriage equality (Labour DO NOT).

    So, how about you get your facts straight before posting this nonsense.

  10. Patrick---01 25 Oct 2010, 3:24pm

    Hopefully the Government will legislate for same-sex marriage before this case reaches finality, much as happened in Argentina

  11. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 3:39pm

    > Dave Chameleon and Theresa [DIS]May are busy taking money from the poor and giving to their rich cronies. Gay civil rights are their last concern, and when it comes to their attention, they tend to behave as tories-AKA-thenastyparty do. I just hope their homophobia doesn’t block the judiciary. Now we have a ConDemN coalition filled with robbers, bullies and homophobes, one can only hope the marriage equality case will slip through their nasty homophobic net, hopefully when they’re too distracted checking their looting.

    In the Wilkinston case, referred to above, the LABOUR Lord Chancellor intervened as a separate party to state that Wilkinson’s case was [at paragraph 41 of the judgment] “essentially misconceived” and that “recognition of the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman does not involve any violation of the Petitioner’s Convention rights under Article 12 or Article 8 as currently interpreted in European jurisprudence.”

  12. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 3:42pm

    And if that were not enough,

    Baroness Scotland, introducing the second reading of the Civil Partnership Bill in the House of Lords, said that the Bill was

    “shaped by consultation with stakeholders and the public at large”

    She stated that:

    “[It] offers a secular solution to the disadvantages which same- sex couples face in the way they are treated by our laws… This Bill does not undermine or weaken the importance of marriage and we do not propose to open civil partnership to opposite-sex couples. Civil partnership is aimed at same-sex couples who cannot marry. However, it is important for us to be clear that we continue to support marriage and recognise that it is the surest foundation for opposite sex couples raising children….”

    (Hansard, HL 22 April 2004, Col 388)

  13. I will be making another contribution to Peter’s organisation as they are more aligned to the meaning of equality than those stonewalling

    to help see http://www.petertatchell.net/ (i am a private individual and have no direct connections other than as supporter)

  14. “Civil partnerships give gay couples all of the rights of marriage. There are some minor differences in the ceremonies and gay couples cannot currently have a civil partnership in a religious setting” [Why on earth would they want to !!!]

    Am I missing something ??

  15. A month ago PinkNews reported that there were “significant” differences in legal rights between cps and marriages. Now they’re not?????

  16. I don’t sell my brothers and sisters. Most of our gay civil rights and liberties were gained during the previous Labour government, and the Tories blocked them all the way. Those who can’t see it are either willfully ignorant, or have been bought for something in selling their brothers and sisters to the nasty parties. What about the LibDems? They’re now nearly dead. You can write it down.

  17. Just as the Prop 8 trial in US so clearly showed anti-gay animus is behind the bar on same sex marriage in California, the same could be shown to be the case in UK…that there is no rational reason why same sex couples are refused access to civil marriage nor why heterosexual couples are refused access to civil partnerships in UK other than to appease anti-gay pseudo-religious bigots who want lesbian and gay people marked as separate and inferior to heterosexual people.
    It would be totally worthwhile to examine the evidence for and against the UK bar on same sex marriage in a court of law and to have it all on record.

  18. Great news – and great campaign name. I’ll be interested to see what excuses the UK gov put forward to deny us civil marriage because there quite simply aren’t any, only religious ones which have no place in civil matters. I’m actually feeling more hopeful about equal marriage not being years away in the UK.

  19. I just want equal rights. If I had a civil partnership then I’d want all the rights given to me that marriage would provide. I’m not interested in any religious side of things.

  20. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 5:50pm

    > It would be totally worthwhile to examine the evidence for and against the UK bar on same sex marriage in a court of law and to have it all on record.

    > I’ll be interested to see what excuses the UK gov put forward to deny us civil marriage

    I may be wrong but I think that this is not what the case would be about. It would be whether the failure to provide same-sex marriage is contrary to Article 8 or 12 of the European Convention. I doubt it would be on the merits of same-sex marriage per se.

  21. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 5:59pm

    > only religious ones which have no place in civil matters

    No place in secular matters, perhaps. And in France, the statement would be true (although France as a secular Republic has no gay marriage or even gay-only partnerships).

    However, if I understand the UK correctly, is it not a Christian state? I understood that the Queen was Head and Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church (which includes both Catholics (non-Roman) and Protestants), that the Queen is Queen by the Grace of God and Defender of the Faith, and that sittings in both Houses of Parliament start with prayers?

    It looks (from a non-English view) that the Civil Partnerships are the secular marriage. Certainly, it looks as though marriage itself in the UK is a religious marriage. Friends of mine in England have got married in a church! The UK recognises the marriage when conducted in a religious building.

    In France, a marriage really is secular and must take place in the town hall. It is conducted by the mayor or the mayor’s representative. People can go to the church for their own ceremony afterwards but it is not recognised by the State. In England, the church-service is the marriage!

  22. @confused: There are important differences between marriage and CPs. PinkNews coverage of this point has been getting better, but was not great in this article.

    As well as the religious setting issue, 1) civil partnerships only backdate partner pension entitlements to 1988, whereas marriage creates spousal entitlements relating to the full length of service; and 2) civil partnerships are still much less internationally portable, causing major inconvenience for transnational/binational couples.

    A further important inequality relates to people obtaining gender recognition certificates, whose prior marriages/CPs are considered dissolved with the option to establish a new marriage/CP on the basis of the correct gender. (Strictly speaking, gender-neutral marriage and CPs would not solve this problem, since (AFAIK) the law would still have to be changed to end automatic dissolution of marriages/CPs after gender recognition. This rule is particularly objectionable since the government could perfectly well have created a right to have an existing marriage automatically converted to a CP (or vice versa), to be considered to have begun when the original marriage began, without jeopardising their insistence on keeping marriage and CPs separate.)

    @jen: A number of religious traditions do not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, including the Unitarians and the Quakers. If you want a religious marriage, and your faith is willing to let you have one, why not? I had a (legally binding) religious wedding in an equal-marriage jurisdiction in a non-discriminatory church, and I am so glad that option was available to me. Common-law countries have a long tradition of permitting religious officials to create legally binding marriages, and there will never be support in the UK for requiring a civil ceremony as is done on the Continent. It is entirely right that same-sex couples should have the same options as opposite-sex couples for the solemnisation of their relationships.

    The old nonsense that ‘churches will be forced to conduct gay weddings’ must be given short shrift; churches have always been permitted to discriminate in their ceremonies on the basis of criteria which would normally be illegal, e.g. faith and marital status. Marriage equality will not affect the general exemption from discrimination law which covers religious doctrine, worship and services. But it will allow gay people in gay-friendly churches to have their marriage conducted in the same way as that of straight people of faith.

  23. Seaon Burckley Van-Sertima 25 Oct 2010, 7:01pm

    This is a really important campaign that Peter Tatchell has started. It’s
    good for gay and straight couples. Ending these twin bans is in everyone’s
    interest.

    You can should support the campaign by emailing your MPs and MEPs. Ask them
    to write to the Prime Minister urging an end to the ban on gay
    marriage and straight civil partnerships.

    You can email your MP and MEPs direct via this website:

    http://www.writetothem.com

    Just enter your postcode. It will tell you who they are, and allow you
    to email them direct.

    Also, let’s help fund this campaign and ensure its success by making a
    donation to Peter Tatchell’s Human Rights Fund:

    http://www.tatchellrightsfund.org/donations.htm


    http://www.petertatchell.net

    You can follow Peter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell or
    join the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Campaign Facebook group at
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35320687969

    PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND (PTHRF)

    Donations are requested to help fund Peter Tatchell’s campaigns
    promoting human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice.

    Peter depends entirely on donations from supporters and well-wishers
    to finance his campaigns. Please donate generously to the PTHRF.

    To make a donation via PayPal – or to download a donation form or a
    standing order mandate – go to Donations at:
    http://www.tatchellrightsfund.org/donations.htm

    Please make cheques payable to: “Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund”.

    Send to: PTHRF, PO Box 35253, London E1 4YF

    For information about Peter Tatchell’s campaigns: http://www.petertatchell.net

  24. Patrick, are you sure that Cameron saying he would “consider” marriage equality prior to his election is official party policy. Was a vote taken on it? If it wasn’t, then its not official policy. “Consider” is political code for “NO”,gives them leeway to adopt Summerskill’s lame argument, not high on the pecking order of things and not necessary. The coward’s way out. I don’t expect much from Cameron. At least Miliband has declared support for it, he didn’t say “consider” either, big difference. What other ranking tories support it and more importantly, if they claim its a party which supports “full” equality, then who is doing something about it to make it happen? Summerskill will have to have an epiphany before Cameron will change from “consider” to “support”.

  25. This is a great campaign! Even if, for the time being before the law (eventually) changes, it’s simply forcing the issue to be acknowledged by the courts in a manner that means it generates publicity and awareness within the general public forum and creates debate. Good on ya! What can we do to support this?

  26. de villiers, I see what you’re saying about the specific articles of the European Convention and I’d guess that those articles are welcomed and kept in place by the larger EU countries that don’t have (and maybe don’t wish to have) equal marriage. It’s an easy get-out in my opinion, and I think those articles need updating.

    As for the UK having no separation of church and state – yes, you’re right in theory, but in practice, the UK is less religiously motivated than, say, the US where there IS a separation of church and state. I don’t see that aspect as a problem. If it was, no divorcee would be allowed to marry in a civil marriage.

    Thinking about it, I think the UK gov will have support from other countries in preventing equal marriage. After all, if one ‘big’ country allows us to marry, it’ll only be a matter of time before the others have to too.

  27. A number of governments are still so reluctant to pass civil union & civil marriage bill and I surprise UK has been there. The tatchell of outrage are long working out.I hope they will do well this time.gaytorium

  28. de Villiers 25 Oct 2010, 10:23pm

    Iris, I find England far more liberal than France. France is much more socially conservative. And it is a secular Republic. That is why the demand for “secular” marriage fails to move me. We have secular marriage in France and it is reserved for one man and one woman. The USA has a separation of Church and State and it is even more conservative.

    I also think that gay marriage in Europe must be, first and foremost, a political issue. If it is ordered by the courts then I would worry that it would fail to have popular legitimacy. America has rights granted by courts yet has a polarised society. England appears to be much more relaxed and it seems to me that this is because rights are won after discussion, debate and democratic enactment.

    Using the law to obtain a political right seems to me to run counter to the traditions and practices of Europe and may result in rights that are less securely rooted.

  29. Patrick---01 25 Oct 2010, 10:31pm

    Bebert number 16:

    “I don’t sell my brothers and sisters. Most of our gay civil rights and liberties were gained during the previous Labour government, and the Tories blocked them all the way. Those who can’t see it are either willfully ignorant, or have been bought for something in selling their brothers and sisters to the nasty parties. What about the LibDems? They’re now nearly dead. You can write it down.”

    More nonsense.

    Latest polls put the Lib Dems on 16% of the vote. That is almost 1 in 5 of the electorate. How exactly does that classify as “dead”.

    As for your heroes Labour – these are the same heroes who deported LGBT asylum seekers back to oppressive regimes?

    You are so misinformed and so far from objective it is unreal. I will concede that Labour did some good things, but they also committed some incredible crimes. Yes, the previous Tory administration was even worse, but we don’t live in the past.

    Oh, and I am not your brother. Our sexuality is the only thing we have in common. It stops there.

  30. Patrick---01 25 Oct 2010, 10:34pm

    Robert number 24 – it was in their manifesto document and it is what they said in an interview by Tatchell. So yes, they said they would consider it, which it more than Labour has done.

  31. Lib Dems face popularity slump as party meets.
    .
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE68H0GZ20100918

  32. The homophobic nasty party is still too busy destroying the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people in our society. They are also trying to destroy the networks that support our communities. Their core homophobic ethos will surface as soon as our civil rights are on the line. Then those who are here trying to defend the farce that the tories are trying to sell to us, they will just vanish. You’ll probably find them checking if there were any crumbles left from the lootings.

  33. Fantastic news – a bit of legal pressure, continued political pressure – what a great combination….

    I love a different sex couple in a PACS from France or a CP from Holland to also take the UK to the European courts or something. I think recognising only same sex CPs/PACS from other EU countries while not recognising different sex ones amazing… At the moment these people have no rights in the UK and in order to get them they must dissolve their CP abroad and get married in the UK… Sound a bit dodgy to me … freedom of movement, allowing people to have a fmailt life, losing their civil status etc… What does the EU commissioner think of the UK not recognising different sex couples from the EU whilse recognising same sex ones????

  34. Tim Hopkins 26 Oct 2010, 6:04am

    The Rees and Cossey cases quoted by de Villiers above (comment 4) illustrate a key feature of the European Convention on Human Rights – it’s a “living instrument” which evolves over time. The rulings in Rees and Cossey were overturned by the European Court’s later ruling in Goodwin and ‘I’ v. UK, around 2001.

    Why? Because by the time of the later cases, 90% of European countries allowed trans people to marry in their transitioned gender – which is what all those cases were about. So the Court ruled that the other 10% must too.

    The same is almost certain to happen with same-sex marriage. There was a same-sex marriage case earlier this year, Schalk & Kopf v. Austria, and the European Court of Human Rights refused to rule that article 12 requires same-sex marriage to be provided. But at that time, only 5 or 6 European countries had same-sex marriage. When 30 to 40 countries do, the Court will no doubt reinterpret the Convention to require the others to also. But it could be 20 years or more before that number of European countries have same-sex marriage.

    All of that means that if these current UK cases win, the English courts will have moved significantly further than the European Court of Human Rights. But, of course, no further than courts in Canada, South Africa and some US states have already moved.

  35. From Human rights Act 1998

    Article 12. Right to marry

    Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

    Article 14. Prohibition of discrimination

    The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

    The discriminatory marriage laws in UK would seem to bring Article 12 into conflict with Article 14.

  36. Jock S. Trap 26 Oct 2010, 8:56am

    I would like to see this get proper widespread media coverage as I think it would be a good thing to get news of this action out there.

    For those still bleating about Stonewall…why? It’s sooo boring. Yes we know they don’t support us whilst they are supposed to be fighting for equality but seriously if they don’t want to support then let them carry on digging their own grave. There are plenty of supporters and we have a loud enough voice without those losers. Lets get positively behind this. Others will either follow or get left behind.

    For those bleating about those evil Tories (Yawn). Did you really think Labour were going to do any different with the economy? The fact they didn’t have an alternative ought to be answer enough but seriously how did you vision how things would be after teh last lot left the country bankrupt? Labour would have done exactly the same, though mostly via stealth I suspect. It’s just handy that yet again the mess has to be cleared up. I’m one of those that will suffer from the review but even I’m adult enough to know that there was no other choice. No-one likes doing necessary horrible things but it only gets worse the longer it’s left. It doesn’t take two brain cells to work that one out.

    At least theres a chance of a better country sooner.

    Finally, I really hope a number of you do end up joining us in 2010 and stop living in the now distant past. Weren’t you the ones who kept going on about how within the first week of the Tories all Gay rights would be finished at the last election with your silly predictions? I’m still waiting…

    You live in your shadowy past where all you want to do in whinge and play victim. Most of us love being in the present to much and certainly look forward to the future. Why hold yourself back?!

  37. #28 “Using the law to obtain a political right seems to me to run counter to the traditions and practices of Europe and may result in rights that are less securely rooted.”

    I agree with that in theory – persuasion is better than compulsion. But I’m hopeful that the majority of the population of the UK support equal marriage so would not object to it being introduced. Also, I believe that the numbers in favour would increase if equal marriage was allowed. Someone on here (sorry – I’ve forgotten who) said that after gay marriage was introduced in a country support naturally rose because people saw that it did no harm and it was, after a time, simply seen as normal – which it is.

    I was interested in what you said about France. Years ago I went to a wedding there and was surprised to see the legal bit and the church ceremony separated like that. At the time, I assumed, in my ignorance, that was because France was less religious than the UK. I know some people have suggested a similar system for marriage here (legal bit then church or whatever separately), but what you say shows that that wouldn’t necessarily be an answer.

    Pavlos: “The discriminatory marriage laws in UK would seem to bring Article 12 into conflict with Article 14.”

    Yeah, I never get that either. To my totally non-legal mind it seems that gay people are quite clearly being discriminated against on the grounds of their sexuality, eg it’s not right that a straight UK citizen can go to, say, Canada, get married then return to the UK and that’s just fine, but if they’re gay and do the same then their foreign marriage isn’t recognised and is ‘downgraded’ to a CP against their wishes.

    I know the excuse used is that they’re not discriminating, it’s just that the law says that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, but what if the law said that marriage could only be between two people of the same skin colour? It would be no consolation to an interracial couple that they could always marry someone of the same skin colour so weren’t being discriminated against, and that was just the way the law was. Change the bl**dy law then!

    Why won’t they? I think religion must play a bigger part in many of these leaders’ lives than they’ll admit.

  38. Patrick---01 26 Oct 2010, 10:47am

    Bebert number 13 – read yesterday’s Guardian. They are at 16% in the polls.

    Fin.

  39. Patrick---01 26 Oct 2010, 10:50am

    Beberts number 32 – get a life.

    This “the world is going to end under the Tories” nonsense is the same as “the world will end if gay marriage is legalised”. It is just silly statements from silly people who live inside a simple world of black and white.

    I am not the biggest fan of the Tories, but they have changed. People can change. Well, most people. Not you, obviously. You are still stuck in the past.

  40. Beberts is right about the tory party, why are you all having a go at him? It’s just his opinion, and it’s a valid one.

    Tatchell is a legend, whilst everyone on here just writes bitchy meaningless comments to one another, he actually does something about the issue.

  41. Patrick---01 26 Oct 2010, 12:11pm

    Leo – nonsense, it is not a valid opinion at all. It is completely subjective.

    People need to accept that the Tories have changed. I didn’t vote for them, nor do I support them, however I have no problem admitting they changed for the better.

    Anyone who attacks the Tories are stuck in the past, and need to grow up and stop acting like children.

  42. @40. Not so Leo, some of the comments here are constructive and as Peter Tatchell himself sometimes posts comments here, I’m sure he reads the comments posted by others … so it’s a great place to show your support for Peter in what is attempting to achieve (along with those he’s working with on our behalf).

    It’s a blatant falsehood that gay men and lesbian women of marriageable age are not being discriminated against by being denied equal access to marriage …it requires exposure for the lie is and for marriage equality to be made a reality.

  43. I think the UK trying to get EU countries to recognise CPs is a classic example of hypocrisy and an exercise in the double-standard. Lets not forget, successive UK governments stubbornly refuse to recognise same-sex marriages performed outside the country and the underlying reason is, it would open the door for same-sex marriage in our own country. Why should ten countries who have legalised civil marriage for gay couples have to recognise CPs when those very countries don’t even consider them equal to marriage? I think its insulting and arrogant on our part when we can’t even reciprocate.

    Patrick, I’ll concede that the Tory party has changed somewhat but if it truly supports full equality as it claims it does, let it prove it by supporting and endorsing same-sex marriage and introduce a paper in parliament to make it a reality. I’ll hold my breath on that one. Why is Cameron finding it so difficult to declare full support for it? Clegg and Miliband have and I’ve no doubt Labour will endorse it. “Consider” to me is more about sitting on the fence. He needs to stop the foot-dragging, man-up and get with the programme to prove he and his party support our full equality without exception.

  44. de Villiers 26 Oct 2010, 7:59pm

    This is my understanding of the law at the present time.

    Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination. This states:
    The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

    The difficulty is that Article 14 does not apply unless the alleged discrimination is in connection with a convention right on grounds stated in Article 14. A person must be entitled to one of the convention rights but then be improperly denied it on the grounds of one of those protected grounds.

    For example, if a black person were not permitted to hold property, this would be a breach of Article 14. Every person has the right to their possessions under the Article One of the First Protocol. The black person’s right to hold property would therefore be interfered with on the grounds of race. Accordingly, this would be a breach of the Convention.

    Article 12 – Right to marry
    Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

    Note the words according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right . This does not necessarily permit gay marriage per se. It allows marriage pursuant to the laws of the contracting member states.

    Courts have interpreted this as the right of men and women to marry each other on the basis that the verb “to marry” applies solely to one man and one woman. If only one man and one woman can “marry” then this Article cannot apply to same sex couples who cannot “marry” each other.

    If there is, therefore, no Convention right for same sex couples to marry each other, then there can (in law) be no discrimination pursuant to Article 14 because there is no convention right that gay people should have but which are being denied on grounds of sexuality.

    A black male would be discriminated against if he were prevented from marrying a woman on the grounds of his race because he has the right to “marry” a woman which is being denied to him on the grounds of race.

    A black male would not be discrimianted against if he were prevented from marrying a man on the grounds of his sexuality because he has no right to “marry” a man because “to marry” applies only to men being able to “marry” a woman and vice versa. There would be no breach of the convention because he is not being denied the exercise of a Convention right.

    Does that make sense?

  45. Outdated laws that no longer reflect the needs of citizens must to be challenged and updated to suit present understanding of the situation deVilliers.
    The present marriage law is homophobic and discriminatory and no longer serves anybody’s interests apart from those who are pseudo-religious bigots, homophobes or bigoted pseudo-religious homophobes.

  46. #44 – That makes perfect sense, de Villiers. Thank you for explaining. So that explains how they can discriminate and yet not legally be guilty of discrimination. But why and when was that little bit put in? Surely its only motive could have been to prevent same sex marriage? The fact that it was sitting there waiting for a situation such as this disturbs me. Who insisted on it being there? And is there any way that the EU can amend that article or would it take the agreement of all member states (which I can’t see happening)?

    The fact is it’s wrong and should be amended. You can’t have partial equality – it’s like saying “Don’t discriminate against gay people because it’s completely wrong – oh, except in this case when it’s absolutely OK.” Surely the illogicality of that should mean that the article could be challenged? And, also, I suspect some religious involvement in drawing that article up, and surely that’s wrong too when we’re thinking about the law?

  47. de Villiers 27 Oct 2010, 1:27am

    It is likely that when attitudes change, the understanding of the meaning of the word “to marry” will change. Words are interpreted and re-interpreted according to the time. I expect that the words of the Article (that have been like that since it was drafted) will, eventually, be reinterpreted.

    However, I would expect any case going to the European Court to take years. What might be a positive point on the legislation (and one which I had not considered) is that national Parliaments or Assemblies may decide to enact to allow same-sex marriage before the issue is forced by the European Court of Human Rights.

    Although – even then, the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are not binding on English Law (they are in French law, I think). The UK Parliament should take account of the decisions of the ECHR but are not bound by them.

    I understand that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ignored their rulings on IRA terrorists throughout the eighties.

  48. The new Tory Nasty Boy Clegg took offence on the word cleanse today. He is not on the list of cleansing, is he? What a tosser !!! No wonder LibDem voters are deserting in droves …

  49. There seems to have been a few cases where gay couples have argued the case for gay marriage but what about the other way around where like Freeman and Doyle , who reject marriage, want to do a CP which is exclusively gay.

    CPs , any many countries call these domestic partnerships, are open to both same sex and different sex couples in a lot of countries. The EU ruling that gay marriage is only allowed in a few countries and therefore isn’t universal isn’t the case for CPs which are quite often open to all.

    I think the Freeman and Doyle case might be stronger and possible has no decision made on it yet???. Lose the exclusivity of CPs and we might get marriage equality.

  50. @44 deVilliers wrote
    “Article 12 – Right to marry
    Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

    Note the words according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right . This does not necessarily permit gay marriage per se. It allows marriage pursuant to the laws of the contracting member states. ”

    However deVilliers, we must be treated equally under law according to Article 14
    Article 14. Prohibition of discrimination

    The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

    So for all you wrote deVilliers, The discriminatory marriage laws in UK still bring Article 12 into conflict with Article 14.

  51. Patrick---01 27 Oct 2010, 11:17am

    Beberts – you really are missing something up top.

    Get a life.

  52. de Villiers 27 Oct 2010, 10:54pm

    Pavlos – you have missed the point. The non-discrimination only applies to rights held under the convention. It does not act to specify the ambit of those rights. As gay people do not have the right “to marry”, they are not protected by Article 14. Article 14 does not act to extend the ambit of the right under Article 12.

  53. New Zealand’s Civil Union legislation enables same sex and different sex couples to have unions with the majority of legal rights and responsibilities of marriage. Currently adoption rights are not held by civil union couples but all other property and partnership rights apply, including sponsorship of a partner for immigration purposes. The Adoption Act 1955 is overdue for review. Some church ministers are willing to give a blessing to civil unions. Most Churches are still split between liberal and conservative factions when it comes to accepting LGBT candidates for ministry training.

  54. Kay – the UK will only recognise the same sex civil union from NZ . Like many countries your civil unions is open to all but in order to get any rights in the UK, foreign different sex unions must first “divorce” in their own country and then get married in the UK. Foreign civil unions of different sex as valid civil statuses and are not uncommon. I don’t think the UK will allow you to marry while being in a foreing civil union, your country will not give you a cetificiate of lawfulness to marry.

    I suggest that the human right artilces that de villiers is arguing about could be more aptly applied to forcing civil unions of different sex of foreign countries to first divorce in one country in order to get married in another country is against a person’s human rights.

    Break down the CP law and you may open possibilities to marriage equality. There is no case history to our CP law as far as I know.

  55. My ignorance – but, though I see the difference between CPs and marriage, why would a couple who are entitled to a civil marriage (in a registry office) want instead to have a CP? What would be the difference? Or the advantage to that couple? Surely it would leave the couple with the (comparatively minor) disadvantages of a CP and no benefit. It can’t be the lack of religeous involvement as the civil marriage has none, does it? What have I got wrong?

  56. help me here someone, please? I can see why a heterosexual couple may want a civil marriage, but they can have that now. What would be the benefit to them of having a CP? Why is the entitlement to do this of importance? What am I missing?

  57. Paul, London 29 Oct 2010, 7:47pm

    “why would a couple who are entitled to a civil marriage (in a registry office) want instead to have a CP?”

    Dave – are you the Dave that’s been slagging Stonewall off relentlessly on here for the past few weeks for not stating their position on gay marriage earlier? or are you another Dave?

    I’ve been trying to tell everyone on here that the issue of “gay marriage” is a litle more complex than it looks on the surface – this is because you also have to deal with some of the knock on consequences. If you have gay marriage, you then have to consider what you do with Civil Partnerships. If you keep them, you then have to consider whether to extend them to heterosexual people otherwise you end up continuing to discriminate against straight people. Some straight people don’t want the percieved dogma that comes with marrage – e.g. wives been seen posessions of their husbands to whom they must obey, so would prefer to have a civil partnership. Coincidentally that is also one of the reasons why some gay people actually don’t want marriage, because it carries a lot of that “marriage” baggage with it. A concensus on all of these issues is needed before the Government would even look at changing the legislation

    It never is as simple as just shouting about your human rights!

  58. NONE of my unmarried straight friends want a CP instead but I think this action is including CPs to try to show the whole picture of discrimination and so that straight people can show their support for equal marriage rights for gay people.

    Paul, I agree with what you say about some people seeing marriage as having ‘baggage’ but – sticking my neck out here! – I think these are mainly older people because no-one I know of my age (30s) thinks that in any way and they are often suprised that anyone believes that to be so nowadays.

    Thinking about that, I’d guess that CPs would gradually fade away if we had equal marriage. Civil marriage has none of the connotations of religious marriage or any of that baggage because it’s simply a legal contract. I don’t say that to argue with or insult those who think it does – I respect their opinion. I only say it to continue our discussion about equal marriage, which, as you say, isn’t clear cut in every area, particularly as regards CPs. My honest opinion is that I wish they’d never been introduced as that’d make things a lot easier! :D Again, absolutely no disrespect to those who have CPs and prefer them to marriage. Their choice and opinion is as valid as mine.

  59. Paul, London 30 Oct 2010, 2:00pm

    I agree with you Iris – but if we didn’t have Civil Partnerships as the interim then we’d still be waiting and fighting… and people in same sex relationship would still be having all those legal difficulties with inheretance tax, next of kin status etc etc… At least those issues can be put on hold by having a Civil Partnership whilst we continue the fight for marriage.

    Other posters have mentioned on here about how in France the PAC (their straight version of Civil Partnership) is seen to be undermining straight marriage because many hetersexual people now opt for them…. And I read a very well reported article on this issue on the BBC website and there were many straight people on there commenting that they would prefer a “partnership” than a marraige. That’s why it’s important we have a sensible dialogue to flush out all the issues rather than just ranting and raving at each other.

  60. Paul: “If we didn’t have Civil Partnerships as the interim then we’d still be waiting and fighting”

    Rubbish. They foist some half-arsed compromise on us to try and placate both gays and the Church and it achieves nothing.
    Nobody would choose CPs over marriage if the option were there, and this pair of straight drips are merely diluting our cause.
    We should fight our corner and continue to fight right until we have full equality, and not a moment before.

    We want equality with everyone else, not some new intermediary that will allow the odd heterosexual misfits to wander into.
    CP’s should be done away with and seen just like Section 28, as a political knee-jerk reaction and a piece of badly thought out legislation.

  61. True, Paul. I welcomed CPs at the time because a) I thought they were a step forward; and b) I thought it would stop religions complaining about gay people getting married. I was wrong on b) – which annoys me greatly, and I’m also revising my opinion on a). I now believe the Gov introduced CPs as an alternative to marriage, after pressure from religious groups or maybe even their own religious beliefs, and planned that this ‘separate but equal’ situation should always remain. I believe they thought that no-one could push for civil MARRIAGE for gay people as we already had CPs and ‘hey, they’re basically the same’. They saw it as being liberal but still keeping us in our place as ‘other’, in my opinion.

    France is a different situation because of the different way marriage happens there, so I’m wary about comparisons but I do accept some people might prefer a CP or PAC or similar. But I truly believe they’re in a minority. My straight friends don’t want to get married because they see no need for it; or they haven’t got round to it; or things are fine as they are and they don’t want to risk spoiling them; or they know they love their partner so see no need for a state-sanctioned affirmation of that. If they could have a CP, I’m sure those reasons would still hold true and they wouldn’t have one of those either. I actually asked one today if they HAD to have a civil marriage or a CP which would they choose, and they shrugged and said “Marriage, of course.” I asked why and they basically said that CPs weren’t the real deal.

    Now I fully appreciate that some people might hold different views but I think that if we left CPs for a while and introduced equal marriage very soon the idea of choosing a CP would hold very, very little appeal. Iceland changed its partnerships to marriage, didn’t it? Have people been complaining there? (That’s a genuine question – I don’t know the answer)

    I’d like everyone to be treated as equal human beings and have access to the same legal contracts if they choose to take them. I don’t care whether it’s called marriage, CP or anything else. What I DO care about is that there be ONE thing for everyone regardless of sexuality, race, etc etc. We have more in common than we have different, and I think it helps promote understanding to treat everyone equally rather than have special contracts for gay people, special ones for white people, etc etc, because that divides us unnecessarily. I’m very proud of who I am but I just want to be treated the same as everyone else – no better, no worse.

  62. David Simmons 31 Oct 2010, 12:25pm

    WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG,WRONG, Nuff said.

  63. David Simmons: What exactly are you trying to say here? :)

  64. David Simmons 31 Oct 2010, 2:32pm

    Hey Spanner, do you honestly think that poofs and skirt lifters should have the same marriage rights as normal couples?

  65. Paul, comment 57, no, that’s not me. I think Stonewall did a lousy job in taking so long to agree with the blatatly obvious, but I have never openly criticised them.

    I still do not get it! What is the benefit of a CP to a straight couple. I just do not buy the “marriage baggage” argument – I think that is sophistry and just making up some reason…. there realy isn’t any point, of fact or principle, that I can perceive. Or is it really, when boiled down, equality for the sake of equality? I guesss there is nothing wrong with that, though it seems slightly odd in this particular context. To me, at least.

  66. CPs were originally intended for both straight and gays. The only reason we have the current CP is beucase we couldn’t get married. I thought the reasoning that straights were not allowed our current vers of the CP was that they could get married.

    Don’t really know what Paul above is going on about, what went in to the house of lords on CPs isn’t what came out at the end of it. The Straight vers of CPs was dropped and the introduction of the CP for caring relative, sister and bros were also dropped. The lib dems policy of CP and marriage equality isn’t necessarily going to be the same thing at the end of the discussion… what’s the surprise here Paul, all the i s don’t have to be dotted and not all the ts have to be crossed at this stage!!!!!

    I personally don’t care what happens with the CP, once we have marriage they are redundant.

    The French PACS is not like a CP and offers an alternative way of living . CP do not offer anything different to marriage. I thought Lord Lester was working on a domestic partnership for both straights and gays. I’d prefer to see this that keep this disriminatory law of CPs…

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