Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom

Different laws and procedures apply to marriage in the different countries of the United Kingdom. For details see;

No constituent country of the United Kingdom offers same-sex marriage, though all countries provide civil partnerships to same-sex couples that provide all the legal consequences of marriage.

A case was brought before the English courts in which a lesbian couple sued for the recognition of their marriage, contracted in British Columbia in 2003. The trial began on 5 June 2006, before Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division. The High Court announced its judgement on 31 July 2006, finding that the marriage would continue to be recognised as a civil partnership in England and Wales, but not as a marriage. In handing down his ruling, Justice Potter gave as his reason that "Abiding single sex relationships are in no way inferior, nor does English Law suggest that they are by according them recognition under the name of civil partnership.". The couple announced their intention to appeal the decision.

Court case

Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, both British university professors, were legally married in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on 26 August 2003. For an overseas marriage to be recognised in the UK, it must be shown that the marriage was legal, recognised in the country in which it was executed, and that nothing in the country’s law restricted freedom to marry.

Kitzinger and Wilkinson argued that their marriage fulfilled these requirements even though people cannot legally enter into same-sex marriages in the UK. The Civil Partnerships Act 2004, which came into effect on 5 December 2005, enabled same-sex couples to register their partnerships and receive all of the legal benefits previously available exclusively to opposite sex married couples. Wilkinson and Kitzinger rejected entering a civil partnership, believing them to be both symbolically and practically a lesser substitute. They asked the court to recognise their overseas marriage in the same way that it would recognise the mariage of an opposite sex couple. They argued that a failure to do so constituted a breach of their human rights to privacy and family life and their right to marry; they also argued that they suffered discrimination on the basis of their sexuality.

In an 12 August 2005 press release issued by Liberty, the British civil rights organization that is supported their case, Kitzinger and Wilkinson said: "This is fundamentally about equality. We want our marriage to be recognised as a marriage - just like any other marriage made in Canada. It is insulting and discriminatory to be offered a civil partnership instead. Civil partnerships are an important step forward for same-sex couples, but they are not enough. We want full equality in marriage."

James Welch, Legal Director at Liberty said: "Our clients entered into a legal marriage in Canada. It is a matter of fairness and equality that they should be treated the same way as any other couple who marries abroad: their marriage should be recognised here. They shouldn't have to settle for the second-best option of a civil partnership."

Kitzinger and Wilkinson argued that any failure to recognise the validity of their marriage constituted a breach of their rights under Articles 8 (right to respect for privacy and family life), 12 (right to marry) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination), taken together with Article 8 and/or 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was incorporated into domestic UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

In a statement primarily directed to the costs aspect of the case, Sir Mark Potter stated: "['Although] I can see few grounds for optimism on the part of the petitioner [Ms Wilkinson], at least so far as a decision at first instance is concerned...I do not consider the matter is unarguable in the light of the trend of modern developments within and outside Europe."'

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