The Equal Love campaign is extremely disappointed that, after all the media hype since the Sunday Times report on 13 February, the reality is that we are no further towards overturning the ban on gay marriage and straight sex civil partnerships.
Human rights campaigner Mr Tatchell, who coordinates the Equal Love campaign to overturn the dual ban on gay civil marriage and straight sex civil partnerships, hit out at the coalition government’s announcement to begin a consultation on civil marriage and civil partnership equality.
“Although a welcome advance compared to the status quo, the government’s decision to opt for consultation on civil marriage and civil partnership equality is deeply disappointing and an unnecessary delay. In a democracy we should all be equal before the law. Nearly two thirds of public support same-sex marriage according a June 2009 Populus poll.
“The case for ending sexual orientation discrimination is overwhelming, and the morally right thing to do. Gay couples should be able to have a civil marriage and heterosexual couples should be able to have a civil partnership. The consultation process is likely to postpone for some years justice and fairness for many gay and straight couples. The coalition should proceed immediately to introduce legislation to end the current inequalities and exclusions in marriage and partnership law,” said Mr Tatchell.
Commenting on the government’s plans to allow civil partnerships in religious buildings, Peter Tatchell said:
“Allowing civil partnership ceremonies to have a religious content and to be held in places of worship is a significant advance for both gay and religious freedom. It was petty and authoritarian to ban faith organisations like the Quakers from holding civil partnership ceremonies, when they clearly expressed a wish to do so. The old restrictions forced religious bodies to discriminate against same-sex couples, even when they didn’t want to.
“By banning religious civil partnerships, the current law is denying religious bodies the right to treat gay couples equally. It is forcing them to discriminate, even when many of them do not want to.
“The Quakers, Unitarians, Metropolitan Community Church and Liberal Judaism wish to conduct civil partnership ceremonies, and should be allowed to do so.
“Following a change in the law, we expect that civil partnerships will be conducted by gay-affirmative religions, including the Unitarians, Quakers, liberal synagogues and some individual Anglican churches, where the priest agrees to do so.”
Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King’s College London and legal adviser to the Equal Love campaign, said:
“Religious civil partnerships will be for same-sex couples only. They will benefit just a few religious same-sex couples who are satisfied with a civil partnership, but want their ceremony to take place on religious premises.
“The Equal Love campaign welcomes the statement that Ministers have ‘identified a desire to move towards equal civil marriage and partnerships’. The government is beginning to accept that the current system of segregation of couples is discriminatory, unjust and unsustainable.
“However, the issue is moving at a snail’s pace, from ‘considering the case’ for allowing same-sex couples to marry in May, to ‘consulting further’ in February. Why is the government spending time and money on creating a new ‘religious’ civil partnership, to be added to ‘civil’ civil partnership’? This is not what most religious same-sex couples want.
“They want a legal relationship that is called a marriage, celebrated by a religious institution that is willing to marry same-sex couples, on religious premises, with a religious service as part of the ceremony. Rules and procedures for the celebration of legal marriages by civil registrars and by authorised religious officials already exist for different-sex couples.
“What most same-sex couples want, whether they are religious or non-religious, is an end to their exclusion from all forms of legal marriage.”
The government’s announcement has no effect on the application submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on 2 February by four same-sex couples refused the right to marry at a register office, and four different-sex couples refused the right to form a civil partnership at a register office.