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Civil partnership and marriage: separate and not equal

Apr 2011

A major conference concerning the reform of marriage law was held in Cardiff on Friday 14th April, following proposals by the coalition Government to allow religious buildings to be used to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

The government's proposals and the recent decision by the Obama administration to drop its opposition to gay marriages, has received much attention in the media in recent months.

Organised by the Centre for Health and Social Care Law at Cardiff Law School, the conference brought together professionals, lawyers, activists, academics, and those wishing to be better informed, to explore whether the current law, which excludes same-sex couples from marriage and excludes heterosexual couples from civil partnerships, is ‘fit for purpose’. In particular, it looked at whether the idea of having two separate systems violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Conference included an address by Peter Tatchell of OutRage! and Professor Robert Wintemute of King’s College London, who considered the political and legal contexts of the campaigns for legislative change. In addition, there was a personal presentation by Professors Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson, a same-sex British couple who were legally married in Canada in 2003. In 2006, their claim to have their marriage recognised as such in the UK was rejected by the High Court in the landmark judgment Wilkinson v Kitzinger.

Dr Augur Pearce of Cardiff Law School analysed the contribution of organised religion to the current law, as well as the religious implications of reform.

Image: Top row from left: Peter Tatchell, Professor Robert Wintemute, Dr Augur Pearce. Front row from left Professors Sue Wilkinson, Celia Kitzinger and Luke Clements, Erich Hou

See the Government’s consultation paper ‘Civil partnerships on religious premises: A Consultatio

To find out more about the conference visit: