December 21, 2010

Gay marriage campaign goes to European Court

by Jan Harris

The Equal Love campaign is taking its case to the European Court of Human Rights today, to argue that England’s marriage laws are discriminatory and should be changed.

The campaign, which is led by Peter Tatchell, has involved four gay couples applying for marriage licences at English registry offices, and four heterosexual couples applying for civil partnership status.

All eight couples’ applications have been turned down and they plan to file a joint application to the European Court, arguing that the ban on gay marriages in England contravenes the human rights act.

Tatchell claims that running the dual system of gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships is a form of ‘sexual apartheid’, since both arrangements carry the same rights and responsibilities and therefore running two discriminatory systems cannot be justified.

Robert Wintemute, the legal adviser to the campaign, also compared the current laws with the apartheid system which operates different rules for different racial groups.

If the European Court of Human Rights rules that the current law runs counter to European conventions, the UK will be required to bring its laws in line with Europe.

A recent report on homophobia published by the EU’s fundamental rights agency (FRA) found inconsistencies in the rights of lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual (LGBT) people throughout the EU.

Same-sex marriage is already legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, and Portugal and Sweden have also relaxed their legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Luxembourg and Slovenia are in the process of changing their laws to allow same-sex marriage.

However Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania have tightened up their rules to make it more difficult for same-sex couples to legalise their union.

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