A gay male couple, Matthew Toresen & Scott Maloney, will apply for a civil marriage licence, in a direct challenge to the UK’s legal ban on same-sex marriage.
If their application is refused, the couple plan to take legal action in the courts to strike down the prohibition on gay marriages.
Scott and Matthew’s application will take place at Northampton Register Office
in the Guildhall, Northampton, tomorrow, Tuesday 16 November, at 10.15am.
Scott Maloney (42) and Matthew Toresen (48) are carers. They have been together in a relationship for 18 years (since 1992).
The couple’s bid is part of the new Equal Love campaign, which is seeking to overturn the twin prohibitions on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.
They are the third of eight couples to challenge these twin bans.
The ‘Equal Love’ campaign is coordinated by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and sponsored by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!, with the support of the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.
“A similar ban on black marriages would provoke an outcry. So why should the ban on gay marriages be tolerated?,” queried Equal Love campaign coordinator, Mr Tatchell.
“The bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” he said.
The Equal Love campaign’s legal advisor is Professor 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. 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),” said Professor Wintemute.
Explaining their bid for marriage equality, Mathew Toresen said:
“We’ve been together now for over 18 years. Our love for each other is as valid as anybody else’s. We made a decision not to become civil-partnered because we feel that gay marriage is worth fighting for.
“It seems nonsensical to me that my two brothers are married to the women they love but that Scott and I are denied this social legitimacy and celebration.
“If the state is going to offer options about how relationships are recognised, these options must be available to all. The current situation is absolutely discriminatory, and must end,” he said.
Scott Maloney added:
“Language does matter. Marriage is universally understood as a meaningful commitment. People might say that in time civil partnerships will mean exactly the same. We say: ‘Why wait?’ Opinion polls already show that the majority of people in Britain support same-sex marriage.
“It seems to me morally right that we all should have the same compact with the state. As a gay man, I am expected to pay taxes, obey the laws and, if necessary, defend this country like everybody else. In return, I expect the state to treat me equally”
“We believe that Equal Love says it all. The fact that we have separate institutions for gay people and straight people creates an artificial divide, rather than acknowledging that commitment and love are universal,” he said.
Commenting further on the Equal Love campaign, Peter Tatchell noted:
“We see the Equal Love campaign as a quest for justice; morally equivalent to the campaigns to overturn the bans on inter-racial marriage in apartheid South Africa and the Deep South of the USA.
“In the coming weeks, a total of eight couples will file applications at their local register offices. Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships. Every week until 14 December, one couple will make an application.
“If they are turned away, they will launch a joint legal action to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.
“Our legal team will argue in the courts that the bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships are unlawful and unjustified discrimination.
“In a democracy, gay and straight couples should be equal before the law. Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination,” he said.
The Equal Love campaign’s legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London. He notes:
“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,” said Prof Wintemute.
Mr Tatchell added:
“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.
“Denying couples the right to civil marriage and civil partnership on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong and has to end.
“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. 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.
“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,” noted Mr Tatchell.
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.