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
George Broadhead, secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA),
said he was
at today's judgement.
Court judgement is appalling and it flagrantly contradicts the
non-discrimination clauses of the Human Rights Act.”
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
Nigel Tart, the Green Party's spokesperson on LGBT issues said he was
saddened at what he called the
has a social, symbolic and emotional importance to those who decide to
commit to it,”
people, gay and straight, will be offended by the outdated idea that the
primary purpose of marriage is to produce children.
Green Party will continue to campaign for full marriage equality for same
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
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