Lesbian couple face wait for marriage decision

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

The High Court judge who will decide whether a lesbian couple can have their Canadian marriage recognised in the UK has delayed his decision, meaning the outcome may not be known until next month.

Celia Kitzinger, 49, and Sue Wilkinson, 52, are seeking recognition in the UK of their marriage made in Canada in 2003, using the Human Rights Act which guarantees the right to respect for privacy and family life, the right to marry and prohibits discrimination.

The case, which lasted for three days, was presided over by Sir Mark Potter, President of the Family Division, who said he required more time to make a decision.

The couple were represented by Matrix Chambers, their lawyer, Karon Monaghan, told the court, “Exclusionary marriage laws have been used historically to reflect and bolster prejudice, oppression and discrimination against marginalized groups,” Monaghan told the court. Such laws “are now being dispensed into the jurisprudential dustbin.”

“Having regard to the Human Rights Act, such laws cannot survive.”

She described the laws barring the recognition of their marriage as “repugnant”.

Their legal case is part of an international movement to secure the global recognition of Canadian same-sex marriages. In Ireland, another lesbian couple married in Canada, Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, are mounting a similar legal challenge in the Irish courts There are also challenges pending in Israel, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Ms Wilkinson said in a statement to the court, “It is important to both of us that we are recognised as partners in life by the world at large.”

Their plea was opposed by the Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, who said in documents submitted to the court that any overseas marriage between a couple that cannot marry in England and Wales, would not be recognised by law, and he highlighted the fact that the UK recognises them as civil partners under the 2004 Civil Partnerships Act.

Barrister Helen Mountfield, for the Lord Chancellor, said the law provided a high degree of “legal recognition” to same sex partners who receive “no less favourable treatment” than married couples.

Ms Wilkinson told PinkNews.co.uk: “There is an increasing body of same sex couples not willing to accept the fact that their marriage dissolves when they move from one country to another.”