Lesbian couple battle to have marriage recognised

Two British women who were married in Canada have gone to the High Court in a test case to win legal recognition for same-sex couples who marry abroad.

The University professors Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who live in north Yorkshire, argue that UK laws which validated their union as a "civil partnership" do not go far enough.

Lawyers for the couple argued at the High Court that if a heterosexual couple were married in Canada and then returned to England their marriage would be automatically recognised and registered.

The University of York and Loughborough University academics were declared "wife and wife" in a 2003 ceremony in Canada.

The Civil Partnership Act, introduced in December last year, gave gay partners in the UK many of the rights enjoyed by married heterosexuals.

But the act states that same-sex couples who marry in countries where such marriages are lawful "are to be treated as having formed a civil partnership".

The couple, who have been together for 16 years, said it was "insulting and discriminatory" to be offered civil partnership instead of marriage.

In a statement read to the High Court, Ms Wilkinson said: "It is important to both of us that we are recognised as partners in life by the world at large."

Karon Monaghan, the barrister representing the couple, said laws prohibiting marriage between different social classes or religions had long been repealed but there were still laws banning same sex partners from marrying.

If the factors preventing the marriage being recognised were because the couple were black or of mixed race, "it will be very clear that such laws are repugnant", she said.

"There is no real difference between such laws of exclusion. Having regard to the Human Rights Act, such laws cannot survive."

Professor Kitzinger, 49, is a sociology professor at the University of York. Professor Wilkinson, 52, a professor of psychology, is based at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, but was living and working in Vancouver at the time of the marriage.

The test case - one of several around the world - is being backed by human-rights group Liberty, which is providing legal representation, and supported by the gay rights campaign OutRage!, which sees the case as a bid to end "sexual apartheid and institutional homophobia".

In a statement issued through Liberty, the couple said they were married in a conservatory in Yaletown. "We made our vows: 'With this ring, as a symbol of my love and commitment, I call on those present to witness that I Celia/Sue do take you Sue/Celia to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, through all our life together'."

The marriage commissioner declared: "Upon the authority vested in me by the Province of British Columbia, I now declare you wife and wife'."

The couple said: "The decision to marry was an affirmation of our love and our commitment to each other. Being granted full social equality through marriage was of profound symbolic importance to us, especially for Celia, who first came out as lesbian as a teenager more than 30 years ago, when homosexuality was still treated as a psychiatric illness. I never expected to have the opportunity to marry someone I loved."

The couple added: "Our case is fundamentally about equality. We want to be treated the same way as any heterosexual couple who marries abroad - to have our valid Canadian marriage recognised as a marriage in our home country."

The couple's legal challenge came on the same day that the Catholic Church issued a denunciation of marriages between same-sex couples. The Vatican said that gay marriage and lesbians wanting to bear children were a threat to the traditional family and signs of "the eclipse of God".

A document, called "Family and Human Procreation," was published just days after US President George Bush urged the Senate to pass a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The document said the family was under attack around the world, even in traditionally Christian cultures, by what it called "radical currents" proposing new family models.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style