Anniversary protest against Ruth Kelly at No10
It was certainly a novel way to spend your first anniversary. Most gay couples would choose dinner, or maybe drinks with friends. Perhaps a nice cruise – on a ship, obviously.
Gino and Mike Meriano instead spent the first part of their special day at Downing St, handing in a petition to the Prime Minister calling on Ruth Kelly to resign.
“I want her resignation with immediate effect. There has been a delay in introducing new protections for gay and lesbian couples caused by Ruth Kelly. That is completely unacceptable,” said Mr Meriano as he waited to get past the stringent security surrounding the Prime Minister’s London residence.
Gino was inspired to take action when he heard Ms Kelly, currently the Secretary of State for Communities, claim that 3000 objections had been raised against the new rules, which will outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services.
“The delay is because of her religious beliefs. This is the religious groups campaigning to allow their prejudice against us to be exempted from the law.”
Mr Meriano, from Weybridge, Surrey, collected 3000 signatures from individuals and organisations to match those that Ms Kelly claims are the reason behind the delay.
As the founder of wedding organisers Pink Weddings, he says he has had enough of venues and suppliers refusing to work with gay couples.
“We must stand up and speak out, we do not deserve nor should we accept this attempt to settle for ‘lazy equality’.
“I would rather be in the pub on my anniversary – instead I am out here in the rain,” he told PinkNews.co.uk, as he waited with his partner and a small band of supporters outside the imposing Downing St gates.
The couple were one of the first to sign the civil partnership register. They were legally joined just after 8am on the 5th December 2005 at Brighton Hove City Hall.
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Despite the downpour, both Mr Merianos were excited to find themselves on the doorstep of No10, even if the late departure of a visiting African dignitary had delayed matters by a few minutes.
Workmen struggled to remove a rain-sodden red carpet, to the disappointment of the Merianos, who hoped it would still be in place when their turn came.
While they waited, the anniversary couple spotted Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, being chauffeured in what else but a Jaguar, and Education Secretary Alan Johnson, driving himself in a Prius.
Mr Johnson was a vocal defender of the new regulations in Cabinet, telling colleagues that the government must press ahead with equality in the face of religious prejudice.
After yet more rain, the Merianos finally got to hand in their petition. Both confessed to being excited by their short experience on the doorstep of power.
They departed for a celebration lunch in Soho, their objection to Ms Kelly lodged.