Equalities Minister opposes equality for straight couples

Maria Miller wrong to reject heterosexual civil partnerships

Ban on heterosexual couples is discrimination

Minister defies public consultation, which backed straight equality

London – 16 May 2013


“The government’s decision to oppose the legalisation of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is hugely disappointing. It is a sad betrayal of the principle of equality. Nevertheless, I hope a majority of MPs will rebel and next week vote for the parliamentary amendment to open up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Every MP who supports straight equality should vote for the amendment,” said Peter Tatchell, coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, which has spearheaded the movement for same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships.

He was commenting on the announcement by Equalities Minister, Maria Miller MP, that the government will oppose the amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill that removes from the Civil Partnership Act 2004 the requirement that civil partners must be of the same sex.

The amendment is backed by MPs Tim Loughton, Rob Wilson, Julian Huppert, Greg Mulholland, Stephen Williams and Charlotte Leslie.

“How can she call herself the Equalities Minister if she opposes heterosexual equality?”queried Mr Tatchell.

“She is acting in defiance of her own mass public consultation in 2012, where 61% of respondents supported extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Only 24% opposed.
See page 42: http://bit.ly/103Zizs

“While legalising marriage equality is welcome and commendable, the government’s refusal to end discrimination against straight couples in civil partnership law is flawed and wrong.

“Despite proclaiming that the legalisation of same-sex civil marriage is driven by the principle of equality, the current bill enshrines inequality by failing to end the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships.

“When same-sex marriage becomes law, gay couples will have legal privileges over heterosexual couples.

“Under government legislation, there will be two forms of official state recognition for lesbian and gay couples: the present system of civil partnerships and the new system of civil marriages. Heterosexual couples will have only one option: marriage. They will be subjected to legal inequality and discrimination.

“This is very wrong. I support straight equality.

“My four decades of human rights activism have been based on the principle of equality. I cannot accept equal rights for gay couples but not for heterosexual couples.

“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. Straight men and women also deserve equality.

“Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to all couples, without any sexual orientation discrimination.

“Some straight men and women don’t like the patriarchal traditions of marriage. They’d prefer a civil partnership. Why shouldn’t they have that option?”

“In the Netherlands, where civil marriages and civil partnerships are available to all couples – gay and straight – the vast majority of civil partnerships are between heterosexual men and women. Some straight people prefer them.

“If civil partnerships were made available to heterosexual couples in the UK there would probably be a similar significant take up.

“This issue is not about numbers. It is about equality. Even if only a handful of straight people wanted a civil partnership, they are entitled to have one,” said Mr Tatchell.

The Equal Love campaign has a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which is challenging the UK’s twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. See here: http://bit.ly/xJumfO

Peter Tatchell is Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.