Civil partnership bid by straight couple

‘Equal Love’ campaign seeks to end sexual orientation discrimination

Tuesday 14 December 2010
Aldershot Register Office
30 Grosvenor Road
Aldershot, GU11 3EB

A heterosexual couple, Lucy Hilken and Tim Garrett, will challenge the legal ban on straight civil partnerships by filing an application at Aldershot Register Office this Tuesday, 14 December 2010 at 11am.

They’d prefer a civil partnership, rather than a civil marriage. It’s less sexist and more egalitarian, they say.

Tim and Lucy believe the denial of civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is “unjust, discriminatory and illegal under the Human Rights Act.”

Lucy Hilken and Tim Garrett expect to be turned down by the registrar but they plan to get the rejection in writing, with view to taking legal advice and appealing against the refusal in the courts, together with seven other rejected couples. All eight couples will file a joint legal appeal later this month.

Tim and Lucy are both teachers aged 31. They’ve been in a relationship together for 11 years and have a young daughter.

The couple’s bid is part of the new Equal Love campaign, which is seeking to overturn the twin prohibitions on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.

Lucy Hilken and Tim Garrett are the eighth of eight couples who are filing applications at register offices across the country, in an effort to overturn the “sexual segregation” in civil marriage and civil partnership law. They are the fourth heterosexual couple to seek a civil partnership. Three other straight couples have already filed civil partnership applications, in Islington, Camden and Bristol.

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

Mr Tatchell will join Lucy and Tim this Tuesday 14 December 2010 at 11am, when they apply for a civil partnership in Aldershot.

Mr Tatchell commented:

“Congratulations to Tim and Lucy. I support their bid for heterosexual equality. Denying straight couples the right to have a civil partnership is as bad as preventing gay couples from getting married.

“In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. There should be no legal discrimination. The twin bans on gay civil marriages and on heterosexual civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid: one law for straight couples and another law for gay partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Prohibiting heterosexual couples from having a civil partnership is discriminatory and insulting. Straight couples like Lucy and Tim should be able to have a civil partnership, if they wish. I salute their challenge to this unjust legislation,” he said.

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.

Tim and Lucy are being advised by the Equal Love campaign’s legal advisor, 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 ground 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 privacy and 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.

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