Two civil servants, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, both heterosexual, living in Islington, are campaigning for full equality in civil partnership and marriage, whether people are straight or gay. They plan to give “notice of their intention to form a civil partnership” at Islington Town Hall on November 24 as part of their campaign for equality. They have been together for nearly four years, want the same legal rights as a husband and wife – but do not want to enter an institution that is closed to lesbian and gay people.
They say that marriage and civil partnerships are exactly the same, duplicated in law, with identical effects, legal processes, rights and obligations. In all but name civil partnerships are equal to marriage– so why not have equality? They do not believe in marriage because they say it is “an apartheid” that segregates straight and gay people.
The implication of their campaign, which the article I read doesn’t refer to, is that the law should be changed to allow lesbian and gay people to marry, and that includes allowing gay marriages and civil partnerships to be contracted in church. If or when that happens, civil partnerships would become redundant (and so might the work of Changing Attitude).
Tom and Katherine believe that Civil Partnerships are an insulting compromise for lesbian and gay couples, forced on the state by the attitude of Christian conservatives “who feel offended by having gay people in their precious institution.” “Marriage is patriarchal. The whole idea of dressing up in a big white dress and being given away by your father and taking your husband’s name is a bit old fashioned.”
Peter Tatchell is supporting them, and has said: “The ban on heterosexual civil partnerships is heterophobic. It is discriminatory and offensive. I want to see it ended so that straight couples like Tom and Katherine can have the option of a civil partnership. I applaud their challenge to this unjust law.” That has been Peter’s line from the start and he believes equally passionately in marriage for lesbian and gay couples.
The Reverend Andy Pakula, minister, and the congregation of Newington Green Unitarian Church, is so disgusted by the “abhorrent” way that marital law discriminates against same-sex couples that the church refuses to carry out any weddings in protest until the law is changed to allow gay couples the same religious marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
Dr Pakula says that: “It is illegal to hold same-sex partnerships in a place of religion and they can’t involve religious language. It’s outrageous – how can I explain that to gay couples in my church?” The church leaders are now looking toward a plan to take their protest one step further – by challenging the law on the basis that it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
I hope they are serious about this and that they succeed. The law must be changed one day to allow lesbian and gay couples either to contract civil partnerships or to get married in church.