2011 New support, new opposition, and the ‘Equal Love’ campaign
2011 was the year that the campaign marriage equality started to increase its tempo. It was the year of Peter Tatchell’s “Equal Love” campaign and its challenge to European Courts. And it was also the year that the issue of marriage itself began to fracture public opinion.
Peter Tatchell launched his “Equal Love” campaign in February 2011 to file an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, in a bid to end sexual orientation discrimination in marriage and partnership law.
“Equal Love” also organised an online petition to urge MPs into backing the cause. The template letter stated: “I ask you to consider how you would feel if you were banned by law from marrying the person you love. I’m certain you’d feel upset and offended.”
In response to the campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron finally announced in October 2011 that the Government would legalise same-sex marriages before the next General Election.
While David Cameron was now showing his full public support for equality, others, such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien were less supportive.
He said: “The view of the Church is clear, no Government can rewrite human nature; the family and marriage existed before the state and are built on the union between a man and woman.”
Through into 2012, the Cardinal remained staunch to his opposition to equality, stating that “Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society.
“It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.”
By 2013, Keith O’Brien was even supporting the marriages of straight priests above the rights of same-sex couples:
“It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own.”
As part of the “Equal Love” campaign, late 2010 saw four same-sex couples file applications for civil marriages at registry offices, and four straight couples apply for civil partnerships. All were refused.
On 2 February 2011, all eight couples made a joint application to the European Court of Human Rights to strike down this inequality, with a view to securing a change in UK law.