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Advocacy News - Equal in the U.K.?

May 27, 2005

Equal in the UK?
Canada's expansion of rights ripples worldwide

By Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger (Photo courtesy of the couple)
Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger
Photo courtesy of the couple.

Equal marriage in Canada is having a 'ripple effect' around the world. Here's our own story.

We are a British lesbian couple, married in B.C. in August 2003 (when Sue was living and working in Vancouver). Now we're back in the UK -- where we are both university professors -- and we're seeking a legal declaration of the validity of our marriage here.

A Civil Partnership Act comes into force in the UK later this year, and we're advised that, under this new legislation, our marriage is likely to be deemed a civil partnership. In effect, we will be forced into second-class status. A different-sex couple married in Canada would automatically have that marriage recognized 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.

Royal Wedding, Windsor, 9 April, 2005 (Photo courtesy of Outrage!)
Royal Wedding, Windsor
9 April, 2005

Photo courtesy of link partners
Outrage!

So we're bringing a test case to the High Court, with the support of Liberty (the national civil liberties association), who are providing legal representation, and OutRage! (the national lesbian and gay campaigning group). Our lawyers are seeking a statutory declaration of the validity of our marriage, with reference to the European Convention of Human Rights (Human Rights Act 1998).

Expert testimony regarding the legality of our marriage in Canada will be provided by Cynthia Petersen (who represented Egale Canada in the landmark Ontario and BC marriage cases, as well as in last year's same-sex marriage Reference hearing).

Cynthia Petersen (Photo by equalmarriage.ca, 2003)
Lawyer Cynthia Petersen will provide Canadian expertise in the UK

We believe this kind of legal action is a 'first' in Europe (where, at present, only Belgium and The Netherlands permit same-sex marriage). It's a rather different approach from that currently being taken by the Irish lesbian couple, Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan (who also married in BC in 2003). They are seeking a judicial review of the Irish Revenue Agency's decision not to treat them as a married couple for tax purposes. However, the objective is the same: to achieve full and equal recognition by the government of their marriage.

Canada is a world leader in equal marriage rights: we hope that the rest of the world will soon catch up!



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