"The petition is being launched today. Be among the first to
sign. Help us win equality for gay and straight couples," Tatchell
"Eight couples - four gay and four heterosexual - filed a joint
legal application to the European Court of Human Rights in
February, seeking to overturn the twin bans on gay civil marriages
and heterosexual civil partnerships.
"By next February, the UK government has to submit to the European
Court of Human Rights its justification for maintaining two
separate legal systems - civil marriages and civil partnerships -
both of which enshrine discrimination based on sexual orientation.
We think the government will have great difficulty in providing a
"Since there is no significant difference in the rights and
responsibilities involved in gay civil marriages and heterosexual
civil partnerships, there is no justification for having two
mutually exclusive and discriminatory systems. Outlawing black or
Jewish people from getting married would provoke uproar. The
prohibition on gay marriages should provoke similar outrage.
Arbitrarily excluding heterosexual couples from civil partnerships
is equally reprehensible."
The couples involved include Sharon Ferguson, from the lesbian
and Gay Christian Movement, and her partner Franka.
The legal advisor to the eight couples and author of the legal
application is Professor Robert Wintemute of the School of Law at
Kings College London. Outlining the legal basis of the Equal Love
He said: "Banning same-sex marriage and different-sex civil
partnerships violates Articles 8, 12 and 14 of the European
Convention on Human Rights.
"It's discriminatory and obnoxious, like having separate drinking
fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the
water is the same. The only function of the twin bans is to mark
lesbian and gay people as socially and legally inferior to
"I am confident that we have a good chance of persuading the
European Court of Human Rights that the UK's system of segregating
couples into two 'separate but equal' legal institutions violates
the European Convention. I predict that same-sex couples will
be granted access to marriage in the UK and that this will be
because the British Government will eventually accept that it
cannot defend the current discriminatory system," he added.