Published: 12th November, 2010
by PETER GRUNER
A HETEROSEXUAL couple from Holloway – supported by human rights champion Peter Tatchell – have once again been refused permission to register for a civil partnership at Islington town hall.
Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, from North Road, were testing the law on civil partnerships – restricted to same-sex couples – because they say it is “an apartheid” that segregates straight and gay people.
Last year, when the couple, in a blaze of publicity, had a civil partnership bid rejected by the Islington registrar they vowed they would help spearhead a national protest.
Islington Council’s hands are tied. Even if they wanted to grant the couple their wish, the law of the land stipulates that heterosexual couples cannot have a civil partnership ceremony.
Now the Equal Love campaign – organised by Mr Tatchell – involves eight couples, including straight and gay people.
They are testing the marriage laws for a legal case being put together by one of the country’s top human rights experts, Professor Robert Wintemute, of King’s College, London.
Speaking on the steps of Islington town hall on Tuesday, Mr Tatchell said: “We seek heterosexual equality. In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law.
“There should be no legal discrimination. The twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and on opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. There is one law for straight couples and another law for gay partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
He added that denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership was “heterophobic”.
Mr Tatchell said: “It is discriminatory and offensive. I want to see it ended, so straight couples like Tom and Katherine can have the option of a civil partnership. I applaud their challenge to this unjust legislation.”
Mr Freeman, 26, an administrator, said he wanted to secure official status for their relationship in a way that supports the call for complete equality and is free of the “negative, sexist connotations” of marriage.
“We’d prefer a civil partnership. But if we cannot have one, we won’t get married,” he added. “On a point of principle, we’ll remain unmarried until opposite-sex couples can have a civil partnership and same-sex couples can have a civil marriage.
“We are taking this stand against discrimination and in support of legal equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.
“The ‘separate but equal’ system which segregates couples according to their sexuality is not equal at all. All loving couples should have access to the same institutions, regardless of sexuality. There should be parity of access.”
Katherine Doyle 26, a postgraduate student, said she and Mr Freeman have been a couple for four-and-a-half years and would like to formalise the relationship.
“Because we feel alienated from the patriarchal traditions of marriage, we would prefer to have a civil partnership,” she said. “Our decision is also motivated by the fact that we object to the way same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married.
“If we got married we would be colluding with the segregation that exists in relationship law between gay civil partnerships and straight civil marriages.”