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 Background to Our Legal Challenge

UK Marriage
Lesbian couple married in Canada seek legal recognition in the UK
United Kingdom
High Court London, London: "This case is a historic legal challenge to the UK’s non-recognition of same-sex marriage. If they win in the High Court, it will pave the way for further legal actions to strike down the ban on lesbian and gay couples getting married in Britain," said Peter Tatchell of the gay and lesbian human rights group OutRage!

Mr Tatchell was commenting on the legal action launched today in the High Court in London by a British lesbian couple, Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who were lawfully married in Canada in 2003. They want their Canadian marriage to be given full legal recognition in the UK.

If the court rules that lawful same-sex marriages conducted abroad should be recognised in the UK, it will be difficult to justify the continued illegality of same-sex marriages conducted within the UK. "If gay marriages enacted overseas are legitimate, why aren't gay marriages in the UK also legitimate?" added Mr Tatchell.

Wilkinson and Kitzinger'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. "This is a major challenge to a grave injustice," said Mr Tatchell. "All other marriages conducted lawfully abroad are recognised in the UK. To deny recognition to a lawful same-sex marriage is discrimination.

In a democratic society everyone is supposed to be equal before the law. Refusing to recognise same-sex marriages enacted in Canada is a denial of equality, since opposite-sex Canadian marriages are granted automatic legal recognition in Britain.

"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 government's position is that same-sex marriages conducted abroad are accorded the status of civil partnerships within the UK. This is unacceptable.

"Civil partnerships are not equality. They are sexual apartheid, with one law for heterosexuals, marriage, and another law for gays, civil partnerships.

"The homophobia of the ban on same-sex marriage is compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Two wrongs don't make a right. "Civil partnerships are second best. Nothing less than marriage equality is acceptable," said Mr Tatchell.

"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,” said Sue Wilkinson.

"We are bringing a 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," added Celia Kitzinger.

"Our lawyers are seeking a 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.

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger