Urgent need to counter opponents of marriage equality
London - 11 June 2012
In three days time the government’s consultation on legalising same-sex marriage will close. This Thursday, June 14, is the end date for submissions to the government’s website:
For the last two years, the Equal Love campaign has spearheaded the campaign for marriage equality; lobbying the government and helping persuade it to agree to end the ban on same-sex civil marriages.
“As well as urging the government to legalise same-sex civil marriages, we also want the legalisation of opposite-sex civil partnerships and religious same-sex marriages by clergy who wish to conduct them,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is the national coordinator of the Equal Love campaign and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“A sizeable minority of heterosexual couples would prefer to have a civil partnership, rather than a marriage. In the Netherlands, where they’ve had both civil marriages and civil partnerships open to gay and straight couples for a decade, two-thirds of civil partnerships are now between heterosexual men and women. If civil partnerships were legalised for straight couples in Britain we would expect a similar take up.
“Many heterosexuals have supported the campaigns for gay equality. We should reciprocate by supporting their right to a civil partnership.
“Some people want to abolish civil partnerships but we’d like to see them retained for gay and heterosexual couples who want an alternative to marriage. Existing civil partners should be given the option to convert their civil partnership into a civil marriage, with a special ceremony if they desire one.
“Any individual minister of religion licensed to conduct marriages should be free to perform a same-sex marriage in their place of worship, if they wish to do so. Church leaders should not be allowed to dictate that willing clergy should be banned from marrying lesbian and gay couples. It should be a matter for individual clergy and their conscience.
“Since the government has already allowed same-sex civil partnerships to be held in places of worship, it is inconsistent to not allow religious premises to be used for same-sex marriages.
“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.
“Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to gay and heterosexual couples, with no discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“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.
See here: www.populus.co.uk/uploads/OmGay_Rights.pdf
“Church leaders have mobilised over 500,000 people to sign a petition against UK government plans to allow same-sex civil marriages. Many of these signatories have been misled to believe that churches will be forced to conduct gay weddings. This is not true.
“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 protesting against a law change that will not affect them. They have no right to veto civil marriage ceremonies for gay couples.
“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.
“In February 2011, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples, sponsored by the Equal Love campaign, filed a historic joint appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). See here:
“Our appeal argues that Britain’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships amount to illegal discrimination, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The bans violate Articles 8, 12 and 14 - respectively the right to privacy and family life, the right to marry and the right to non-discrimination.
“Our Equal Love case is based on different legal arguments from the French and Austrian same-sex marriage appeals, which were rejected by the European Court of Human Rights. We are quietly confident of victory,” said Mr Tatchell.
For further information:
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790