A heterosexual couple are planning legal action after their application for a civil partnership was rejected this morning (24 November) by a registrar in London.
Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle are challenging the law that offers civil partnerships only to same-sex couples and civil marriage only to mixed-sex couples. They argue that both options should be available to any couple.
Rejecting their application, the Islington registrar said that “the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 states that a civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex”.
Speaking outside Islington Registry Office, Doyle and Freeman said that they would take the matter as far as the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. This will be the first legal action taken over the right of a mixed-sex couple to form a civil partnership.
The publicity generated by such a move would be likely to provoke public and media debate on the nature of the laws in question.
Their legal action will the be the latest in a series of challenges to the UK's marriage laws. In July, British Quakers agreed to lobby for a change in the law to allow them to carry out same-sex weddings with the same legal recognition as mixed-sex weddings.
In August, the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia called for a new legal framework which would allow people to enter into marriage as a religious commitment, with legal registration of relationships being a separate process open to couples regardless of gender and sexuality.
Doyle and Freeman, both 25, have been together for three and a half years.
“Because we feel alienated from the patriarchal traditions of marriage, we would prefer to have a civil partnership,” said Doyle, adding that their decision was also motivated by their objection to the way same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married.
“We don't want to take advantage of civil marriage when it is an option that is denied to our lesbian and gay friends," she said.
The couple are backed by the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who describes the
current situation as “one law for straight couples and another law for gay partners” and insists that “two wrongs don't make a right”.
"I applaud their challenge to this unjust legislation," he said, “They are going to need lots of support. It will be a tough legal battle”.