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High Court Judge Endorses the ‘Sexual Apartheid’ of Same-Sex Marriage Ban


British lesbians married in Canada denied recognition in the UK

Full official text of the High Court judgement

Background To Our Legal Challenge. By Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger were ordered by the High Court to pay £25,000 ($47,000 or €37,000) towards the UK Government's costs.  This is in addition to their own costs.

If you would like to make a contribution, please send a cheque to: Equal Marriage Rights, PO Box 486, Clifford House, 7-9 Clifford Street, York YO1 9RA.  Cheques should be made payable to  "Equal Marriage Rights"




■ Sue Wilkinson (left) and Celia Kitzinger commiserate with each other after having their legal application dismissed by the High Court in London.
(photo: Outrage!)

LONDON, July 31, 2006  –  The High Court in London has today rejected an application by a British lesbian couple  – Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger – that their same-sex marriage in Canada should be recognised in the UK, in the same way that heterosexual marriages in Canada are automatically recognised by the UK authorities.

“We are deeply disappointed,” said Sue Wilkinson following the judgement. . “A different-sex couple married in Canada would automatically have their marriage recognised as a marriage in the UK.

“We believe that to operate a different set of rules for same-sex couples is profoundly discriminatory - an affront to social justice and human rights,” she added.

Celia Kitzinger commented:  “We bought this test case to the High Court in London with the support of the human rights watchdog, Liberty, who are providing legal representation; and with the backing of OutRage!, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group.

“The court has denied the legitimacy of our marriage.  Our lawyers sought a High Court declaration of the validity of our marriage, with reference to the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998,” concluded Ms Kitzinger.

Peter Tatchell of the gay human rights group OutRage!, who was in court to hear the ruling by Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, said the judgement was “flawed” and “homophobic”.

“[It] upholds discrimination and brings shame to the British legal system,” Mr Tatchell said.

OutRage! had backed the legal challenge by Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger from the outset.

“Sir Mark Potter’s decision defies the democratic principle that every person should be equal before the law.  It contradicts the non-discrimination clauses of the Human Rights Act,” Mr. Tatchell said..

“British heterosexual couples who marry abroad have their marriage recognised automatically in the UK.  To deny recognition to a lawful same-sex marriage conducted overseas is clear-cut discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Sue and Celia wanted their Canadian marriage to be given full legal recognition in the UK, in the same way that heterosexual marriages in Canada are fully recognised in British law.

“This is a temporary setback in the long struggle for marriage equality.  We have lost round one, but we are confident that the non-recognition of same-sex marriage will eventually be overturned.

“We hope Sue and Celia will take their case to the Court of Appeal and, if necessary, all the way to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights,” added Mr Tatchell.

OutRage!’s campaign organiser, Brett Lock, who was also in court for the judgement, added: “The ban on same-sex marriage in the UK is institutional homophobia. It signals the continuing second class legal status of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

“The judge’s ruling that same-sex couples should accept the inferior status of civil partners is deeply insulting.

“Civil partnerships are not equality.  The separate systems of marriage and civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid, with different laws for gays and straights. Marriage is for heterosexuals only, and civil partnerships are for gays only. Two wrongs do not make a right. Separate is not equal.

“Civil partnerships are second best. Nothing less than marriage equality is acceptable.

“The government’s position is that same-sex marriages conducted abroad should be accorded the status of mere civil partnerships within the UK.  This view was endorsed by the judge. Marginalising same-sex relationships in this way is disturbing and offensive.

“The government’s aggressive opposition to the recognition of same-sex marriage and its successful demand for £25,000 costs against Wilkinson and Kitzinger will dismay many lesbians and gay men.  It will do great damage to the government’s gay-friendly credentials.

“These punitive costs seem designed to financially damage Sue and Celia and thwart any attempt to appeal against the court’s ruling,” said Mr Lock.

Liberty legal officer Joanne Sawyer said:  “Celia and Sue have bravely taken the first step on the road to securing equal marriage rights for same sex couples. I have no doubt that today’s judgment will in due course be viewed as being out of step with contemporary values.”

George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), said he was appalled at today's  judgement.

The High Court judgement is appalling and it flagrantly contradicts the non-discrimination clauses of the Human Rights Act.” he said We hope that Sue and Celia will carry on their fight for equality by launching an appeal and we will do all we can to support them in this, both morally and financially.

Nigel Tart, the Green Party's spokesperson on LGBT issues said he was saddened at what he called the “reactionary judgement”.

Marriage has a social, symbolic and emotional importance to those who decide to commit to it,” he said..

Many people, gay and straight, will be offended by the outdated idea that the primary purpose of marriage is to produce children.

The Green Party will continue to campaign for full marriage equality for same sex couples,” Mr. Tart pledged.

■  University professors, Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, made their original application for marriage recognition to the High Court in early June this year.

They were married in Vancouver, Canada, in 2003, after the Canadian province of British Columbia amended its marriage laws to allow same-sex marriage.

The couple’s marriage is fully recognised in Canada.  But the UK’s Civil Partnership Act says that same-sex couples who marry overseas “are to be treated as having formed a civil partnership”.  Sue and Celia want the UK to recognise their marriage as a marriage, not as a civil partnership.

Wilkinson’s and Kitzinger’s legal case is part of an international movement to secure the global recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages. In Ireland, another lesbian couple married in Canada, Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, are mounting a similar legal challenge in the Irish courts.  There are also challenges pending in Israel, New Zealand and Hong Kong


Sue and Celia's website
Liberty website

Full official text of the High Court judgement



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Posted: 31 July 2006 at 18:30 (UK time)