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Lesbians fail to have "marriage" recognized in UK
Mon Jul 31, 10:20 AM ET
A lesbian couple lost a legal battle on Monday to have their Canadian marriage legally recognized in Britain.
In a ruling at London's High Court, senior judge Mark Potter said giving legal recognition to gay marriages would "fail to recognize physical reality."
Sue Wilkinson, 52, and Celia Kitzinger, 49, who married in British Columbia in August 2003, lost their legal fight to have their union recognized in Britain.
The marriage of a man and a woman was different to a same-sex partnership, Potter ruled.
"The majority of people, or at least of governments ... regard marriage as an age-old institution, valued and valuable, respectable and respected, as a means not only of encouraging monogamy but also the procreation of children ... in a family unit in which both maternal and paternal influences are available," the judge said.
"Abiding single sex relationships are in no way inferior, nor does English law suggest that they are by according them recognition under the name of civil partnership."
New laws which came into effect in Britain last year gave same-sex couples legal status through "civil partnerships."
But unlike those in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Canada, Britain's same-sex civil partnership is not a marriage.
Lawyers for the couple said their Canadian marriage should not be "downgraded" to what they considered the "lesser substitute" of a civil partnership.
The couple, who have been together for 16 years, claimed their marriage was valid under the European Convention of Human Rights. They spent their life savings to bring the legal challenge.
The couple said the judgment was "deeply disappointing" for themselves and for same-sex couples across the country and said it would one day be swept aside.
"Denying the validity of our marriage upholds discrimination and inequality," Wilkinson said. "This judgment will not stand the test of time."
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the existence of both civil partnerships and marriage was a form of "sexual apartheid."
"To deny same sex marriages conducted in Canada the same recognition as heterosexual marriages in Canada strikes me as a case of overt discrimination," he said outside court.
The judge insisted heterosexual marriages and same-sex partnerships were not the same thing.
"Parliament has not called partnerships between persons of the same-sex marriage, not because they are considered inferior to the institution of marriage but because, as a matter of objective fact and common understanding ... they are indeed different," Potter said.
Human rights campaign group Liberty, which gave the couple legal support, said the ruling was wrong.
"I have no doubt that today's judgment will in due course be viewed as being out of step with contemporary values," Liberty legal officer Joanne Sawyer said in a statement.
But, Stonewall, a charity which campaigns for gay and lesbian equality, said civil partnership already gives couples the same legal and financial security as marriage.
"Civil partnership has all the rights of marriage anyway, including pensions," a Stonewall spokesman said. "There are a lot of gay couples out there that don't want it called marriage."
Family law solicitor Richard Hogwood, of lawyers Speechly Bircham, said the government would be relieved the ruling did not undermine the civil partnership law.
Had the couple won their case, the argument for same-sex marriage "would have been invested with a great deal more force," he said.
British court denies marriage of 2 women
By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jul 31, 11:40 AM ET
A British court refused to recognize the same-sex marriage of two university professors Monday, ruling that marriage has long been accepted in Britain as a union between a man and a woman.
Sue Wilkinson, 49, and Celia Kitzinger, 52, wed in Vancouver, Canada, in 2003 and had asked London's High Court for legal recognition of the marriage. They argued that their relationship was like that of any other married couple and that, by calling it a civil partnership, Britain had violated their human rights.
Mark Potter, president of the High Court's Family Division, ruled there was a "long-standing definition and acceptance" that marriage refers to a relationship between a man and a woman, primarily intended to raise children.
"To accord a same-sex relationship the title and status of marriage would be to fly in the face of the (European) Convention (on Human Rights) as well as to fail to recognize physical reality," Potter said.
However, Potter said lasting single-sex relationships were "in no way inferior" to relationships between a man and women.
"We are deeply disappointed by the judgment, not just for ourselves but for other gay couples and families," Wilkinson said after walking from the courtroom holding Kitzinger's hand. "It perpetuates discrimination and it sends out the message that lesbian and gay marriages are inferior."
Potter said that he believed people across England and Europe respected the concept of marriage and believed it was an important means of protecting the traditional family unit.
"The belief that this form of relationship is the one which best encourages stability in a well-regulated society is not a disreputable or outmoded notion based upon ideas of exclusivity, marginalization, disapproval or discrimination against homosexuals," Potter said.
Wilkinson and Kitzinger were told by Potter they have the right to challenge the ruling at Britain's Court of Appeal.
But Kitzinger said their life's savings have been exhausted by the court's decision that they must pay the government's $46,590 in legal costs.
"We are hopeful we will be able to appeal but need help to fund the cost, which will likely be the same amount again," Kitzinger told The Associated Press.
"Though we're disappointed, we are sure there will be a day — within our lifetimes — when there will be equality for same-sex marriage," she said. "This judgment will not stand the test of time."
The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and Spain have legalized same-sex marriage, while several other European countries have laws similar to Britain's _where same-sex couples have the right to form legally binding civil partnerships, entitling them to most of the same tax and pension rights as married couples.
In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.