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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2005: Methodist reaction. 1st civil partnerships
in the UK. Western Isles problem. Lawsuit. Stats.


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2005-JUN-29: Methodist Church changes its policy about blessing same-sex relationships:

Delegates to the conference of the Methodist Church in England voted to give their ministers permission to bless same-sex relationships, if they wish. The Methodist Church is the third largest Christian faith group in England, after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. More details

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2006-JUN-06: Couple, previously married in Canada, sues to have their marriage recognized:

Sue Wilkinson, 51, and Celia Kitzinger, 48, are a lesbian couple -- both university professors -- who live in Yorkshire, England. They have been together for two decades. They were legally married in British Columbia, Canada in 2003-AUG. After returning to England, their Canadian marriage was not recognized at all; they were regarded as roomates. After the Civil Partnership Act (CPA) came into effect during 2005-DEC, they were recognized as being in a civil partnership.

In 2006, they were helped by Liberty and Outrage! to launch a lawsuit at UK's High Court. Kitzinger told The Independent newspaper:

"Our relationship is not a civil partnership, it is a marriage. Any different-sex couple who did what we did would have had their marriage recognized [in England]. I feel insulted about being treated differently than a heterosexual couple."

Their case was heard on 2006-JUN-6 to 8 by the President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Mark Potter. His ruling was issued on 2006-JUL-31.

They wrote on their "Equal Marriage Rights" website:

"We lost the case. The judge ruled that we ARE discriminated against relative to a heterosexual couple legally married overseas, but he said that this discrimination isjustified in order to protect the 'traditional' definition of marriage. He also awarded £25,000 of costs against us. We have been unable to appeal the decision due to lack of funds. This website was originally set up to support our legal case."

The judge ruled that a same-sex couple does not constitute a "family."

They had hoped to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but lacked the funds to do so. 1,2,3

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2005-DEC-19: Civil Partnerships become available in Northern Ireland:

Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, a lesbian couple in Northern Ireland, became the second same-sex couple to enter into a civil partnership in the UK. Another couple had married earlier; they were given special dispensation by the government because one spouse was terminally ill. By DEC-22, an estimated 687 couples were "partnershipped." More information on the first civil partnerships.

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2006-JAN-08: Civil Partnership ceremonies unavailable in the Western Isles:

When same-sex couples enter into civil partnerships throughout the UK, they go to their registry office and sign  a basic registration in the presence of two witnesses. They are then offered a ceremony similar to that given to opposite-sex couples entering a civil marriage. However, in one of its remotest regions, the Western Isles, no such ceremony is being offered. According to the Universe Catholic Newspaper: "Western Isles Council’s policy committee has decided not to offer such ceremonies after local registrars said they would be unwilling to carry them out."

The Western Islands are also known as the Inner and Outer Hebrides. They are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, off of western Scotland.

Christian church leaders of all denominations on the islands organized a campaign against civil partnersips. Father Malcolm MacLellan of St Michael’s parish on Eriskay said that:

"Catholics here are loyal to the Church’s teaching that only a man and a woman may marry. There is a danger in speaking out against the civil partnership because you are immediately accused of being homophobic. That is not the case."

The term "homophobic" has a number of meanings, ranging from fear of persons with a homosexual orientation, to hatred of lesbians and gays, to advocating that the civil rights of gays, lesbians, and same-sex couples be reduced. The terms sexism, racism, xenophobia, also have multiple meanings. We use the last definition on this website. The reaction of Roman Catholics on the Western Islands would seem to fall within this definition.

Not only is the Church opposed to same-sex marriage, they are against recognizing same-sex relationships in any formal way.  An anonymous priest added:

"The Western Isles is not some Brigadoon backwater. It’s just that here politicians listen to the will of the people and people oppose these so called gay marriages." 4

Father MacLellan and the anonymous priest may have been misinformed; they may not have realized that same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships across the UK, but cannot marry.

However, the UK law is still applicable on the islands, and the islanders could not hold out forever. On 2009-JUL-20, Andrew Robertson -- a children's TV host -- married his partner Craig Atkins -- marketing manager at Stornoway's An Lanntair art center, at a registry office in Stornoway. 5

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2006-JUN-06: Couple marries in Canada and sues to have their marriage recognized:

Sue Wilkinson, 51, and Celia Kitzinger, 48, are a lesbian couple -- both university professors -- who live in Yorkshire, England. They have been together for two decades. They married in British Columbia, Canada in 2003-AUG. After returning to England, their Canadian marriage was not recognized at all; they were regarded as roomates. After the Civil Partnership Act (CPA) came into effect during 2005-DEC, they were recognized as being in a civil partnership.

In 2006, they were helped by Liberty and Outrage! to launch a lawsuit at UK's High Court. Kitzinger told The Independent newspaper:

"Our relationship is not a civil partnership, it is a marriage. Any different-sex couple who did what we did would have had their marriage recognized [in England]. I feel insulted about being treated differently than a heterosexual couple."

Their case was heard on 2006-JUN-06 to 08 by the President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Mark Potter. His ruling was issued on 2006-JUL-31.

They write on their "Equal Marriage Rights" website:

"We lost the case. The judge ruled that we ARE discriminated against relativeto a heterosexual couple legally married overseas, but he said that this discrimination isjustified in order to protect the 'traditional' definition of marriage. He also awarded£25,000 of costs against us. We have been unable to appeal the decision due to lack offunds. This website was originally set up to support our legal case."

The judge ruled that a same-sex couple does not constitute a "family."

They had hoped to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but lack funds to do so. 1,2,3

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2010-AUG-25: Number of Civil Partnerships -- projected and actual:

The government originally estimated that between 5,500 and 11,000 same-sex couples would enter into civil partnerships by the year 2010. 6 In fact, there were more than 15,500 civil partnerships between 2005-DEC and 2006-SEP: "14,084 partnerships in England, 537 in Wales, 942 in Scotland and 109 in Northern Ireland." 7

On 2010-AUG-25, the Office for National Statistice (ONS) reported that the total number of civil partnership ceremonies was:

  • 7,169 in 2008.
  • 6,281 in 2009.

The law firm Winckworth Sherwood issued a report in 2010-AUG:

"ONS figures also showed that 351 civil partnerships were dissolved last year (2009), 95 per cent more than in 2008.

Jacqueline Major, a solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood, commented:

'It was predictable that civil partnership figures would be high for the initial years following the introduction of the legislation.'

'Many people in same sex relationships had waited years for the law to be changed so their unions could be legally recognised.'

'The decline in couples entering civil partnerships in the last year or two could also be linked to the uncertain economic climate. Marriage figures are down too.'

'The fact that breakdowns in civil partnerships are up year on year is a natural reflection of marriages that break down after a short while.'

'It is interesting to family law solicitors to look at these statistics year on year, and as time goes by we can see just how civil partnerships will work, and what advice people seek when entering and on the breakdown, of civil partnerships.'

'Anyone thinking of entering a civil partnership should take legal advice, and possibly consider a pre-nuptial agreement, from an expert family lawyer. On a breakdown of a civil partnership, similar procedures and law applies as with divorce, and again expert advice should be sought on how to dissolve the relationship and deal with finances, children and any other relevant matters'." 8

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-Sex Couple "Married" in Canada Sues for Recognition of Lesbian "Marriage" in UK," LifeSiteNews, 2005-AUG-08, at LifeSiteNews.com [LifeSite news does not recognize same-sex marriages in Canada as true marriages. On their website and news releases, they usually put the word "marriage" in quotation marks when it refers to other than an marriage by an opposite-sex couple.]
  2. CitationNumber [2006] EWHC 2022 (Fam)," England and Wales High Court, 2006-JUL-31, at: http://equalmarriagerights.org/
  3. Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger. "Equal Marriage Rights," 2010-OCT, at: http://www.equalmarriagerights.org/
  4. "Western Islander priests back ‘gay weddings’ ban," The Universe Newsroom, 2006-JAN-08, at: http://www.totalcatholic.com/
  5. Rex Wocker, "Outer Hebrides see first gay union," GayLife (MD), 2009-AUG-06, at: http://www.baltimoregaylife.com/
  6. "Gay couples to get joint rights," BBC News, 2005-MAR-31, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  7. "Gay 'weddings' top 15,500 in UK," BBC News, 2006-DEC-04, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  8. "Number of civil partnerships declines ," Wiunckworth Sherwood, 2010-AUG-25, at: http://www.wslaw.co.uk/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-OCT-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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