Heterosexual civil partnership blocked in Aldershot

Eight couples have now been refused legal equality

Legal challenge will be launched on 21 December in London

A heterosexual couple, Lucy Hilken and Tim Garrett, had their application for a civil partnership refused at Aldershot Register Office on Tuesday 14 December. The registrar cited the legal ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships as the reason for the rejection.

See these photos of Lucy and Tim at Aldershot register office:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/outrage/sets/72157625472292107/
These photos are free to use, without charge, but please credit Brett Lock.

Tim and Lucy now plan to commence legal action in the courts, together with seven other couples who have been similarly refused.

This joint legal action is scheduled to be launched in the Great Hall at King’s College London at 10am on 21 December.

Commenting on the refusal, Tim Garrett (31) said:

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the refusal to grant us a civil partnership. The register office staff were very courteous and helpful. But the legislation they currently have to abide by is outdated and discriminatory. The thinking behind the ban is anachronistic and reminiscent of the days of whites-only golf clubs and such like. We hope Britain will soon join other civilised, liberal democracies such as South Africa and the Netherlands, by casting off this unpleasant and offensive form of segregation. Allowing civil partnerships only to gay people and civil marriages only to straight people is unjust discrimination,” he said.

His partner Lucy Hilken (31) added:

“I don’t see any valid justification for the law to deny us the right to register our relationship as a civil partnership. We want legal recognition of our commitment to each other, not only for ourselves but for the sake of our daughter. We have been refused a civil partnership on unfair and discriminatory grounds. We are now are going to pursue this matter in the courts,” she said.

See more quotes from Lucy and Tim at the end of this news release.

Tim Garrett and Lucy Hilken are both teachers. They’ve been in a relationship together for 11 years and have a young daughter.

Tim and Lucy’s application was part of the Equal Love campaign, which seeks the repeal of the twin prohibitions on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

Lucy and Tim are the last of eight couples who have filed applications at register offices across the country, in a bid to overturn the “sexual segregation” in civil marriage and civil partnership law. They are the fourth straight couple to challenge the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships. Four same-sex couples have applied for civil marriages and have also been rejected.

The Equal Love campaign is organised by the gay rights group OutRage! and coordinated by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.

Equal Love’s campaign coordinator, Peter Tatchell, was in Aldershot to support Tim and Lucy and their civil partnership application. He said:

“The ban on heterosexual civil partnerships is just as offensive as the ban on gay civil marriages. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is similar to discrimination based on race. No form of discrimination is acceptable in a democratic society. Everyone should be equal before the law.

“Denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is unjust and discriminatory. We believe that straight couples like Lucy and Tim should have the option of a civil partnership, if they wish.

“The bans on same-sex civil marriages and on opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. They enshrine one law for straight couples and another law for gay partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“The Equal Love campaign has involved eight couples filing applications at register offices around the country. Four same-sex couples applied for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples applied for civil partnerships. All were turned away.
“Our aim is to secure equality in civil marriage and civil partnership law. We want both systems open to all couples, gay and straight, so that everyone has a free and equal choice.

“Just as gay couples should be able to marry, civil partnerships should be available to straight couples.

“Same-sex marriage is the growing trend all over the world. It exists in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, as well as seven of our European neighbours: Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. We want marriage equality in Britain too,” said Mr Tatchell.

Tim and Lucy are being advised by the Equal Love campaign’s legal expert, Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

“By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, and different-sex couples from civil partnership, the UK Government is discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act,” said Professor Wintemute.

“The twin bans violate Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

“The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy. There is no longer any justification for excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage and different-sex couples from civil partnership. It’s like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same. The only function of the twin bans is to mark lesbian and gay people as inferior to heterosexual people,” he said.

Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and former Conservative Party Vice-Chair, Margot James MP, have both come out in favour of allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in a registry office, on the same terms as heterosexual partners.

This view is also endorsed by the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.
Both the Liberal Democrat and the Green party conferences have voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the bans on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

Public attitudes have shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus opinion poll in June 2009 found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.

Additional quotes from Lucy and Tim

Explaining her desire for a civil partnership, Lucy Hilken said:

“Tim and I don’t want to get married. Our commitment to each other is strong and we plan on spending the rest of our lives together. We have no desire to enter into a marriage contract. However, we do want legal recognition of our relationship and would prefer a civil partnership because it is free from the negative, orthodox traditions of marriage.

“I also feel strongly that if marriage has evolved in to a modern institution that has moved away from its religious and sexist history, then gay people should have the right to get married if that is what they want.

“If civil partnerships didn’t exist we would opt to not marry. But since they do exist, we’d like to have one. By prohibiting male-female couples from having a civil partnership, we are being discriminated against for no good reason. We want this ban overturned,” she said.

Her partner, Tim Garrett, added:

“Our argument with the current law is twofold. The most pressing injustice is that the institution of marriage is denied to gay people. The creation of a separate institution called civil partnerships does not remedy this injustice but only serves to highlight the culture of exclusion and discrimination. However, now that civil partnerships have been created, it is an institution that appeals to increasing numbers of straight people, including myself and Lucy.

“A civil partnership is preferable for me because it is an institution devoid of the patriarchal and religious authoritarianism that goes with marriage. I want legal recognition of our relationship and favour a civil partnership as the way to secure this recognition. Making civil partnerships and civil marriages open to both straight and gay couples would erase the current exclusions and inequalities,” he said.

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