A LESBIAN couple have challenged a ban on same-sex marriage by applying for a marriage licence.office (10909-3)
Katie Green and Colette French, from Horndean, applied for a licence from Petersfield Registry Office yesterday but, as they expected, they were turned down.
The couple, both 21, say they want to be married rather than enter into a civil partnership, and will take their fight through the courts along with other gay couples, as well as heterosexual couples who want the right to civil partnerships.
Miss Green, a politics student at the University of Portsmouth, said: 'It's unacceptable in a democracy that marriage isn't open to all.
'We love each other and want to formalise our relationship.
'Marriage is the universally recognised system of love and commitment. We want to be part of it, to secure the ultimate recognition of our relationship.
'In a democracy, institutions should reflect society and be open to all. Civil partnerships and civil marriages offer almost the same rights and responsibilities. Therefore it seems the only reason that marriage has a closed door policy towards lesbian and gay couples is to denote their inferior status.
'We have been together almost three years and our families are supporting us all the way.'
Gay couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since December 2005. But in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, gay couples can legally wed.
The couple argue that not allowing them to marry contravenes their right to a family life and protection from discrimination, under the Human Rights Act.
They are being joined in their court fight by seven other couples as part of the Equal Love campaign which is being spearheaded by gay rights activist Peter Tatchell.
He said: 'Our aim is to secure equality in civil marriage and civil partnership law.
'We want both systems open to all couples, gay and straight, so that everyone has a free and equal choice.
'Denying couples the right to civil marriage and civil partnership on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong and has to end. In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law.'