A LESBIAN minister and her partner are to apply for a civil marriage, and say that they will take legal action if it is rejected. Their action is part of a campaign to allow same-sex couples to be married, and heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships.
The Revd Sharon Ferguson, the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), and pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of North London, and her partner, Franka Strietzel, will make an application on 2 November to be married at the register office at Greenwich.
By 14 December, a total of eight couples — four same-sex, four heterosexual — will file applications for civil marriages and civil partnerships at their local register office. Under the Civil Partnerships Act 2004, only same-sex couples may enter into a civil partnership. The action is being co-ordinated by the “Equal Love” campaign run by Peter Tatchell, the human-rights activist.
At a press conference in London on Tuesday, Mr Tatchell said that if the couple’s application was turned down, a legal challenge would be mounted. “This is not a gay-rights campaign: it is a campaign for equal love rights, both gay and straight. Our aim is to secure equality in civil-marriage and civil-partnership law.”
Ms Ferguson told the press conference: “Because of my Christian faith, it is marriage [not a civil partnership] that I want. As Christians, we believe in the sanctity of marriage, and it is a God-given institution, and therefore it is the only institution we want to be part of.”
The campaign is receiving legal advice from Professor Robert Wintemute, of the law department at King’s College, London. He said that by banning gay couples from entering into civil marriage, and by banning heterosexual couples from entering civil partnerships, “the UK Government is discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act.” Specifically, the bans violated Article 14 of the Act, which protects against discrimination; Article 12, which enshrines the right to marry; and Article 8, the right to respect for family life, he said.
Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman, one of the heterosexual couples applying for a civil partnership, said that they did not want to get married “when there are others who can’t because of their sexuality”.
The LGCM said in a statement that “only allowing people either a marriage or a civil partnership based solely on the gender of the person they love is a form of second-class citizenship . . .
“Whilst we respect and honour the decision of all couples who have entered into a civil partnership, it is only befitting that we should be campaigning for marriage. We are a Christian organisation, and recognise that many Christians hold a deep conviction that marriage is ordained by God for the nurturance of all people called to this vocation.”