All posts by Chris Melvin

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.

Facebook friendship pages controversy

By Chris Melvin

Boasting a growing 500 million regular users, the Facebook group have launched the latest new feature for their clients on the social networking site: the “friendship” tool.

The now widely recognised Facebook logo.

This software – befittingly titled “Friendship Pages” – will be installed on a rolling basis over the next few weeks and allows users to see a collection of common information between contacts: tagged photos together; mutual friends and likes; events attended together, and a section for wall posts and comments. This is not limited to solely a user and another – one can connect any combination of their contacts.  Other users can access the Friendship Page if said the users give permission via their privacy settings.

The tool aims to provide a new way of analysing information in order to tackle the complaint that easily keeping up-to-date with specific profiles is difficult for those with several hundreds of friends.

Facebook software engineer, Wayne Kao, commented on his involvement in the project: “for those of us who have worked on it, the best part is the human side of these pages. They can bring back memories, conversations and times spent together.”

However, there have been a hoard of complaints launched against the new implementation – most publicly on a blog posted on its initial US launch. One Facebook user, Lucy Michaela Adams (boasting over 750 friends), commented on the blog saying:

Example Friendship Page

“This is just an invasion of privacy.
Why not simply allow a user to view the history between oneself and a friend? Currently it is allowing anyone you are ‘friends with on Facebook’ to view how you interact with other people…its too much! By putting all the information together in one place it takes the fun out of Facebook […] surely this defeats the whole point of Facebook if people stop interacting with each other!”

Since then, a defiant Facebook Page appropriately entitled ““Opt Out of the FB Friendship Feature” has been created whose main concern is the lack of an option to block the application via privacy settings. The page, now showing 670 fans and growing, states in its info section that “[the application] is stripping the Facebook community of their right to Privacy and choice.” Many of its protesters state that the Friendship Pages are “creepy” and encourage “stalking”.

In contrast, many users do in fact welcome the changes, with several users agreeing with Kao. Lauren Davies, a member of Facebook, commented saying: “I don’t understand the controversy – it isn’t an issue of privacy at all. All the information that can be seen on the Friendship Pages can also be seen elsewhere, though less easily. There is just as much stalking going on, with or without the pages”.

The Facebook group have yet to comment on whether they will implement an “opt out” feature, though it is likely to be covered by their privacy settings.