Straight Quaker couple are refused a civil partnership

By staff writers
November 23, 2010

A heterosexual Quaker couple have been refused the right to hold a civil partnership at Bristol Register Office.

Kristin Skarsholt and Ian Goggin made the application today (23 November) as part of the Equal Love campaign, which is calling for both same-sex and mixed-sex couples to have the right to choose between a marriage and a civil partnership.

UK law currently recognises marriages only between members of different sexes. Since 2005, same-sex couples have been given the right to a civil partnership. This confers almost exactly the same rights but in different language. Campaigners argue that this is discriminatory.

"Although the register staff were extremely helpful, they were unable to offer us a civil partnership,” explained Goggin. He thanked them for their politeness but said that the couple were determined to continue their campaign.

The Equal Love campaign involves four same-sex couples applying for marriages and four mixed-sex couples requesting civil partnerships. After all eight couples have been rejected, they plan to launch a legal challenge.

The challenge began when Rev Sharon Ferguson was denied the right to marry her partner at Greenwich Register Office.

They are backed by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. Other supporters include Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King's College London. He argues that the current set-up constitutes discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Skarsholt and Goggin are thought to be only the second mixed-sex couple ever to apply for a civil partnership in the UK. Two weeks ago, Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman had their application rejected at Islington Register Office.

Goggin was born in Ireland and Skarsholt in Norway. They first met at a Quaker event and now both live in Bristol.

“We want the UK law to recognise the universality of love,” said Skarsholt.

She told Ekklesia that she had been inspired by reading Walter Wink, a Christian theologian and nonviolent activist. She said his work had “really strengthened my resolve and made me determined to see through Equal Love's challenge to UK law that is segregating same-sex and different-sex couples into different institutions”.

The campaigners are confident that their efforts will pay off in the end. Goggin said, “Next time we come here to apply for a civil partnership we are confident there will be a happier outcome”.


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