A Civil Proposal for Marriage

Article excerpt

A straight couple are fighting for the right to be civil partners, reports Jerome Taylor

How about this for a proposal? Darling, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. The thing is, I don't approve of marriage. It's riddled with historical baggage and is a discriminatory system still forbidden to our gay friends. So why don't we publicly declare our love by challenging Britain's marriage laws and register a heterosexual civil partnership? They'll say no, of course, but at least we can battle them in the courts for years.

That is exactly what Tom Freeman and his partner, Katherine Doyle, will do tomorrow when they go to Islington Register Office and request a civil partnership. "It's not very romantic," admits Ms Doyle with a smile. "But it's something that needs to be done."

Their ruse is part of a campaign by eight gay and straight couples to challenge the bans preventing gay couples from marrying and heterosexual couples from seeking a civil partnership. In the coming weeks, the couples will head to their nearest register office to ask for something they know will be refused. Then they will launch a joint legal action arguing that Britain's marriage laws are discriminatory and illegal under human rights legislation.

Since 2005's Civil Partnership Act, same-sex couples have been effectively allowed the same "rights" to marry as their straight counterparts. But marriage itself remains forbidden, something that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people believe is discriminatory. It is also out of step with the 10 countries to have introduced parity between civil marriage and civil partnership: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.

Although the campaign is being co-ordinated by the gay rights group Outrage! …