The first of eight gay and straight couples to challenge the UK’s marriage laws have been denied a marriage at a London registry office, as expected.

Rev Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka Streitzel, the lead gay couple in the Equal Love campaign, were denied permission to marry this morning in Greenwich.

They expected to be rejected and are to return to the registry office tomorrow to pick up an official letter of rejection, which they will hand to Professor Robert Wintemute, their lawyer in the case.

Rev Ferguson told PinkNews.co.uk: “It is about segregation and discrimination. Straight couples can get married but not have a civil partnership, gay couples can have a civil partnership but can’t get married.

“And yet to all intents and purposes, the two are identical. So what is the point in having two different institutions?”

Rev Ferguson, who is the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, added that she and her partner Franka are people of faith and wish to celebrate their union accordingly.

She said: “We live our whole lives in our faith. We don’t want a separate blessing and ceremony.

“Marriage is the institution we believe to have been ordained by God.”

The other seven couples, who are a mix of gay and straight, will attempt to register ceremonies they are not entitled to in the coming weeks.

Once all eight have been rejected, a legal case will be prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

According to Professor Wintemute, the twin bans on marriage and civil partnerships violate the Human Rights Act in respect of Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is leading the Equal Love campaign, was not available for comment today.

Last week, he said: “In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. The ban on same-sex civil marriage and on 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.

“Just as gay couples should be able to marry, civil partnerships should be available to straight couples.”