A month remains until the close of the government’s consultation on how to implement civil marriage equality for gay and straight couples.
Marriage equality advocates are encouraged to fill in the consultation, which is open to all, before it closes on 14 June.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said today the public had been misled by religious figures and encouraged to sign an anti-marriage equality petition launched by the Coalition for Marriage from a fear that their churches and other religious premises would be forced to conduct gay weddings.
The government does not propose to allow religious marriages, which have been called for by some religious bodies and the shadow home secretary, and is a question which can be addressed in responses to the consultation.
The Coalition government does propose to continue allowing civil partnerships to take places on religious premises. The move has not so far resulted in a legal challenge to force religious premises to host gay partnership ceremonies.
Mr Tatchell, the coordinator of the Equal Love campaign and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation said: “The government’s proposals concern only civil marriages in register offices. They will have no impact on faith organisations or places of worship. Senior churchmen are fussing about something that will not affect them. They have no right to veto civil marriage ceremonies for gay couples.
“Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. A Populus poll in March 2012 found that 65% of the public agreed with the statement: ‘Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.’ Only 27% disagreed. This represents a steady increase in public support for marriage equality and a steep decline in public opposition.”
In 2011, the Equal Love campaign launched a legal challenge on behalf of eight gay and straight couples at the European Court of Human Rights arguing that barring gay people from marriage and straight people from civil partnerships was discriminatory.
The government does not, however, currently propose to open civil partnerships up to straight couples, an issue which can also be addressed in responses to the consultation.
98 percent said they believed gay and straight couples should have the same options available to them, either by only having access to marriage or by both having access to marriage and civil partnerships.
Mr Tatchell said: “The UK’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are unjust discrimination. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law.
“We urge that both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to gay and heterosexual couples, with no discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to equal treatment and protection against discrimination, including the right to marry.
“Legalising same -sex marriage is the recognition that LGBT people are of equal worth, equally part of humanity and have a right to the equal validation of their love.
“The same principle of equality applies in the case of civil partnerships. Heterosexual couples should be able to have a civil partnership if they wish.
“Many heterosexuals supported the campaigns for LGBT equality. We should reciprocate by supporting their right to a civil partnership.”
PinkNews.co.uk encourages all interested parties to respond to the consultation on how to allow gay and straight couples equal access to non-religious marriage in England and Wales before 14 June.