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Lesbians who married in Canada want recognition in Britain: report
Saturday May 28, 2006
A lesbian couple who married legally in Canada are reportedly to mount a legal challenge in Britain to have their union recognised as such.
Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger married in August 2003 in British Columbia, Canada -- one of the first places in the world to recognise same-sex marriages -- and want the same status in Britain.
The couple, both university professors, will bring their test case to London's High Court on Friday in a hearing expected to last four days, The Observer reported.
Britain introduced new legislation late last year officially giving gay and lesbian couples the same rights and responsibilities as their married, heterosexual counterparts.
Couples can register their partnership in much the same way as a civil wedding ceremony but not in a religious one, because of opposition from the Church of England.
Kitzinger was quoted by The Observer as saying it was "outrageous" the British government would not recognise their marriage.
"Our lawyers are seeking a declaration of the validity of our marriage with reference to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998," she said.
Wilkinson added: "If a different-sex couple went to Canada and got married and returned to England it would be automatically recognised... This case is about equality."
But the head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, Don Horrocks, was quoted as saying that allowing same-sex couples to marry could undermine the institution.
"Where does it all stop? Soon there will be people wanting to marry their horse or perhaps three or four people all want to get married. If the word marriage is going to be infinitely plastic it loses all meaning," he said.
"We said this would happen all along."
The newspaper said a High Court judge gave an interim ruling in April allowing the case to proceed. Similar challenges are being mounted in Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Hong Kong, it added.
Accept it: we're married, lesbian couple tell judge
Academics who wed in Canada take discrimination fight to the High Court
Jamie Doward, home affairs correspondent
Sunday May 28, 2006
A lesbian couple will this week make British legal history when they mount a High Court challenge to have their civil partnership recognised as a marriage. The case has dismayed Christian groups, which fear it could undermine marriage as an institution.
University professors Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger married in Canada and want their relationship to have the same status in the UK. They hope their test case, which starts on Friday and is expected to last four days, will lead to others in same-sex relationships being able to wed in the UK.
'It's outrageous the government won't recognise our marriage,' Kitzinger said. 'Our lawyers are seeking a declaration of the validity of our marriage with reference to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.'
Wilkinson said: 'If a different-sex couple went to Canada and got married and returned to England it would be automatically recognised ... This case is about equality.'
The pair, who have been together for 16 years, married in August 2003 while Wilkinson was working in British Columbia, one of the first places in the world to recognise same-sex marriages.
Peter Tatchell of gay rights group OutRage, which is backing the case along with human rights group Liberty, said it was an attempt to end 'sexual apartheid'. 'Civil partnerships are second best,' Tatchell said. 'Nothing less than marriage equality is acceptable.'
But Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance, said allowing same-sex couples to marry would set a dangerous precedent.
'Where does it stop?' Horrocks asked. 'Soon there will be people wanting to marry their horse or perhaps three or four people all want to get married. If the word marriage is going to be infinitely plastic it loses all meaning.'
Many Christian groups see the case as vindicating the arguments they made when opposing the introduction of civil partnerships.
'We said this would happen all along,' Horrocks said. 'We know that when the homosexual lobby get one thing they move on to the next stage. It was always going to be the case that once they had got civil partnerships somebody who had been married in Canada would mount a test case in Britain.'
In April a High Court judge gave an interim ruling allowing the case to proceed: 'I consider that there is sufficient material available for an argument based on principle ... that the requirement of the Civil Partnership Act that a marriage between same-sex partners abroad must, on registration, be treated as a civil partnership and not a marriage, is on the face of it discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation.'
The test case is one of several challenges around the world to have same-sex relationships recognised as marriages. There are similar challenges in Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Since civil partnerships were introduced in the UK, gay and lesbian couples have had the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Some observers have therefore asked why those supporting the case feel that recognising a civil partnership as a marriage is so important.
'In some sense, those who say it's just a word are absolutely right,' Wilkinson said. 'So, in that case, why is the government fighting so hard against us?'