[JURIST] A UK heterosexual couple whose civil partnership [Directgov backgrounder] application was denied [BBC News report] by their local town council announced Wednesday that they will challenge the refusal in court. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle are the first heterosexual couple to apply for a civil partnership in the UK, where same-sex couples may obtain legal recognition with rights akin to those of a married couple. They allege that the denial constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that such a distinction amounts to segregation in matrimonial law. The human rights and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell is supporting [press release] the couple in their challenge and has decried the difference in application of the laws experienced by heterosexual and homosexual couples.
In the UK, civil partnerships were created exclusively to recognize same-sex couples by the Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 [text], and European nations remain divided on the issue of legal recognition of same sex couples [ILGA Europe backgrounder]. Several countries in Europe, including Spain and Norway [JURIST reports], recognize same-sex marriages. Other European countries recognize same-sex couples in various degrees through civil measures like registered partnerships and registered cohabitations, but the cohabitations are usually open to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Countries like Hungary and Greece [JURIST reports] continue to ban legal recognition of same-sex couples.