Peter Tatchell: ‘MPs should vote for heterosexual civil partnerships’

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I urge MPs to vote for the right of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership. Banning them is wrong. This is a simple issue of equality. Just as gay couples should be allowed to marry, straight couples should be permitted to join together in a civil partnership. There should be no discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.

Both the Tory government and the Tory rebels reject full equality. They have double standards on civil partnerships and civil marriages.

David Cameron supports equal marriage for gay couples but opposes equal civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. In contrast, the Tory rebels reject same-sex marriage but are demanding opposite-sex civil partnerships. Both sides are inconsistent, hypocritical and wrong.

In the Netherlands, civil marriages and civil partnerships are available to all couples, gay and straight. A majority of civil partnerships are between heterosexual men and women.

If civil partnerships were made available to straight couples in the UK there would probably be a similar significant take up.

Some straight couples don’t like the sexist, patriarchal traditions of marriage. They’d prefer a civil partnership. They regard them as more modern and egalitarian. Why shouldn’t they have the option of civil partnership?

This issue is not about numbers. It is about equality. Even if only a handful of straight people wanted a civil partnership, they are entitled to have one.

The government’s argument that heterosexual civil partnerships would cost too much is unseemly. You can’t put a price on equality. When it comes to equal rights, cost should not be a factor.

My four decades of human rights activism have been based on the principle of equality. I cannot accept the idea of equal rights for gay couples but not for heterosexual couples.

In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. Straight men and women also deserve equality.

Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to all couples, without any sexual orientation discrimination.

The Equal Love campaign has a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which is challenging the UK’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. 

It is this legal case that prompted the government to legalise same-sex marriage. We are likely to win.

Our legal case was drafted by the human rights advocate and European law specialist, Professor Robert Wintemute of Kings College London.

Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign.

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