Equal Love: straight rights; gay rights; human rights

By Chris Melvin

The Equal Love movement is the latest campaign launched by experienced rights activist Peter Tatchell, aiming to redress the alleged discriminative legislation that causes imbalance and segregation – both legally and financially – between heterosexual and homosexual couples in regards to legal commitment.

Every week, one of eight couples will file their applications at their local registry office. Four straight couples will apply for a civil partnership, whilst four same-sex couples with apply for civil marriages. This began on November 2nd and will continue up until December 14th.

Tatchell has said: “If the couples are turned away, as we expect they will be, we plan to take legal action” – The bans on marriage and civil partnerships are violations of the Human Rights Act with respect to Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman
Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman

As predicted, the first couple – Rev. Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka Streitzel – were denied permission to have a civil marriage in Greenwich last week. Both are women of faith. Rev. Ferguson stated: “we live our whole lives in our faith. We don’t want a separate blessing and ceremony”.

Yesterday, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle helped the Equal Love movement by filing for a civil partnership at their local town hall in Islington, London. As expected, they were also refused the right to a civil partnership due to the couple being of mixed-sex.

Katherine explained that marriage “has typecast gender roles that are not part of our day to day relationship. We felt that civil partnership represented a more flexible idea of what a couple should be”. She later stated that, as the young couple only wish to be unified under a civil partnership, she and Tom “feel frustrated that [they] are excluded from the benefits of traditional marriage”.

She then commented on the refusal of her application: “it is a disappointing reminder that Britain – a country that prides itself on its progressiveness in equality and justice – is harbouring segregation at its heart. Britain has been overtaken by South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada on marriage equality, and needs to make a change to legislation soon”.

An "equal" ceremony
An "equal" ceremony

Following this comment, Marjolein Ligtvoet-Molmans and Edith Molmans-Ligtvoet, a same-sex Dutch couple married since 2003, compared the current legislation in the United Kingdom with that of Holland; the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

“We feel like civil partnerships are just a substitute so that gay couples have ‘at least got something’ instead of marriage. Straight couples should have the right to civil partnerships too, because everyone should have the right to choose for themselves – it should be equal for all couples, like it is in Holland.”

Marjolein highlighted the financial aspects, saying: “I specifically married my partner because we wanted to buy a house.  Since I already had children, my partner wouldn’t have had any rights to my money if I died leaving her basically on the streets”.

Once the eight couples are refused, the Equal Love campaign will use the results as evidence and turn to the courts. The legal case is being prepared by professor of human rights law at King’s College London, Robert Wintemute.