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Islington Tribune - by PETER GRUNER
Published: 20 November 2009
Peter Tatchell
Peter Tatchell
‘It’s time for Unitarians to break the law on marriage’

Human rights campaigner calls for church to defy same-sex ban

HUMAN rights campaigner Peter Tatchell this week called on an Islington church to be the first in Britain to break the law by marrying gays.
Mr Tatchell threw down the challenge to the Unitarian church in Newington Green as plans were unveiled for him to speak at a major conference there on the “inequality” of gay marriage.
The Unitarian church has banned full wedding ceremonies until the law is changed to allow gay couples the same religious marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
But Mr Tatchell believes that the 300-year-old church – famous for its stand on human rights – should take the next step and marry a gay couple in defiance of the law.
Mr Tatchell said: “The Unitarian church take the view that until same sex couples can get married no one should get married. That has been a courageous and pioneering stand.
“While I respect their decision, it would be even better if the Unitarians married gay and lesbian couples in defiance of the law. That would throw down a gauntlet to the government to dispose of this unjust discrimination.”
American born Reverend Andrew Pakula, minister at the Unitarian church, said members had discussed the idea of breaking the law and marrying gays.
He added: “One of the reasons we decided against it is that I’m a foreign national and could be deported back to the States.
“We could get someone else to marry a gay couple but I understand that would be very complicated. But the idea might be worth exploring again at the conference.”
Islington has become the battleground for the national debate into gay “segregation” in civil and church marriage.
Mr Tatchell will also support a heterosexual couple from Holloway, civil servants Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, both 25, when they attempt to test the law by seeking a “gay partnership” at Islington Town Hall on Tuesday (see below).
Islington Council is currently at the centre of a storm after threatening to sack Christian marriage registrar Lillian Ladele after she refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies.
The Unitarian church conference, which takes place on Saturday February 27, will explore the issues surrounding the gay marriage and civil partnership rights in the UK.
Speakers lined up so far include Mr Tatchell, Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and Professor Robert Wintemute, from the School of Law, at King’s College London.
The ban on weddings at the Unitarian church, first reported in Islington Tribune in March last year, made headlines all over the world.
But according to Rev Pakula the congregation has doubled since the ban.
“Seven years ago there were six elderly ladies in our congregation,” Rev Pakula added. “Today we have more than 70 people. They are mostly young adults. We’ve grown I believe because we stand up for our values.”

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle
Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle
‘We are challenging the civil marriage apartheid’

ISLINGTON council announced this week that it will not allow heterosexual couple Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle to marry in a “gay” civil partnership.
The pair, from North Road, Holloway, planned to test the law on civil marriage because they say it is “an apartheid” that segregates straight and gay people.
Under the 2004 Civil Partnership Act, only members of the same sex can enter into a civil partnership.
Heterosexual couples can, however, have a civil marriage.
A spokesman for Islington Council said the ceremony would not be allowed to take place. “Like all councils we must follow the requirements of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which states that to qualify for a Civil Partnership, couples must be of the same sex – so our hands are tied,” he said.
However, the couple say they intend to turn up at the registry office at Islington Town Hall on Tuesday in order to publicise the issue.
The venue is one of the most popular in Britain for so-called “gay marriages” – civil partnerships which legally recognise relationships between gay couples.
Ms Doyle said that since they announced a plan to marry in a civil partnership they have received support via email from all over the world.
Mr Freeman said: “We think the ‘separate but equal’ system which segregates couples according to their sexuality is not equal at all.
“All loving couples should have access to the same institutions, regardless of sexuality. There should be parity of respect and rights”.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who will join them on Tuesday, said: “The ban on heterosexual civil partnerships is heterophobic. It is discriminatory and offensive.
“I want to see it ended, so that heterosexual couples like Tom and Katherine can have the option of a civil partnership. I applaud their challenge to this unjust law.”

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AN excellent article, however the only Unitarian Church that makes the stand taken is Newington Green were Mr Tatchell was speaking. The article conveys its the entire denomination which isn't actually the case. Originally in 2001 when a bill for civil partnership was first presented in the Lords by Lord Lester, the proposal covered Heterosexuals as well. At the time the Gov't front bench refused to take this up. So eventually the finished bill was just for same sex couples. This discriminates against cohabiting straights who should be covered by civil partnership if they wish it.
Tim Blades


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