Tom and Kat's Straight Gay Wedding?

Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman are challenging legislation inequality between civil marriage and civil partnerships. Here, they explain why they could use some help

Feature by Paul Mitchell | 08 Feb 2010
  • Untitled

"The biggest challenge we've found is people saying 'So, you can get married, what's the problem?' Although there's a sort of legal equality, there's not a social equality and people are still adjusting to the idea of what a civil partnership is. Marriage has been around for hundreds of years, everyone thinks it's the gold standard; but a civil partnership doesn't yet have that association!" Katherine Doyle is pondering the occasionally negative, often indifferent reactions to the fact that she and partner Tom Freeman, having been refused an application for a Civil Partnership on the grounds that it is for same-sex couples only, are challenging the current status quo which sees separate legal processes for mixed- and same-sex couples, for what is in effect the same concept.

Since that rejection, the couple have been readying a challenge to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The process could take up to five years, and naturally, they're concerned that they might not be successful. According to Tom, "The first big problem is that we are not being deprived of any concrete right that other people have got. When I first mentioned what we were doing to Liberty (an organisation that helps in human rights cases), they were a little bit sceptical because of the potential difficulty we'll have in showing this." To strengthen their position, Tom and Katherine are now actively seeking two gay couples and one other straight couple to join them in battle. "We've been advised that we need to stack up cases to show that we're not acting on our own and to display a consensus that the current situation is unacceptable." explains Tom, adding "The point of having a gay couple go through the legal challenge with us, all as one, is to highlight the fact that there are differences in the situations, and that this amounts to discrimination."

Katherine explains the principles behind their stance: "The division between civil marriage and civil partnership reflects a division, or a perception of a division in society. I think, any couple, regardless of their sexuality, is a couple firstly, and their sexuality is secondary to that. The legislation should reflect that. As it stands, it regards straight couples as different to gay couples, and that's not right." Elaborating further, Tom pinpoints the attitudes in certain areas of the media which contribute to highlighting this division. "We just hope that what we are doing will be a small part in the erosion of how gay couples and straight couples are viewed throughout all strands of society. For instance, often when a gay couple is mentioned in the press, often the word 'husband' (complete with inverted commas) is used to refer to one or other of the partners. The implication being that it's not a 'real' husband. I've seen it in the Mail, the Metro. It suggests that there is something improper about it. If you're out with a gay couple and ask if they're married, they might say 'Yes, well no, hang on, it's complicated'. Why should that be the case?"

For more information on this campaign see