Ekklesia have an interesting story in relation to the ongoing campaign for marriage equality.

A lesbian couple have been refused the right to hold a civil marriage at Petersfield Register Office in Hampshire. But unlike other couples who have attempted to challenge the ban on same-sex marriage, they say that they were treated offensively and dismissively by register office staff.

Collette French and Katie Green made their application today (30 November) as part of the Equal Love campaign, which is calling for both same-sex and mixed-sex couples to have the right to choose between a marriage and a civil partnership.

The campaign involves four same-sex couples applying for marriage and four mixed-sex couples requesting a civil partnership. After all eight couples have been refused, they will launch a legal challenge.

French and Green are the fifth of the eight couples to make their attempt. But whereas other couples have thanked register office staff for their helpfulness and understanding, the staff at Petersfield were described as “officious, unhelpful, obstructive and dismissive”.

UK law currently recognises marriages only between members of different sexes. Since 2005, same-sex couples have been given the right to a civil partnership. This confers almost exactly the same rights but in different language. Campaigners argue that this is discriminatory.

Collette French said, “The staff told us verbally that we could not be married because the law prohibits same-sex marriage. We asked them to put this in writing but they were unwilling to do so.”

The couple say that they were taken aback by this refusal, because the previous four couples had all been treated politely and given a refusal in writing.

“We expected to be refused but we were not expecting to be treated so unkindly,” said Katie Green, “I felt humiliated and not respected”.

She explained, “The staff didn’t seem willing to listen or comprehend our case. They kept on interrupting us and offering us a civil partnership, which we kept telling them we didn’t want. It was like being back in school and being lectured to. I found it a very unpleasant experience.”

Now, I don’t want anybody to be insulted and humiliated, but really this is all a bit silly. This visit was part of a campaign where every week another couple goes into a registry office and asks for something that the law says they can’t have. The couple already know that the answer is “no” and the aim of the visit is to cause some publicity around that “no” in order that the law might be changed.

So it strikes me as quite bizarre that such a couple were “humiliated” by a Registrar who, fed-up with the blatant way his office and his employees are being used yet for another publicity stunt, tells the couple where to go. I can imagine the conversation.

Katie Green : We would like to register for a civil marriage
Registrar : I’m afraid you can’t register for a civil marriage as you are both the same sex. We can offer you a civil partnership. When should we fix the date?
KG : No, we want a civil marriage. Please confirm to us in writing the reasons why.
R : Not on your nelly. You came into this office already knowing the answer to your question. You have used my busy staff for your publicity stunt and taken time away from other crucial work. Your colleagues made your point for you weeks ago in other registry offices and I simply am not going to play your narcissistic game. By all means campaign for a change in the marriage laws, but don’t make my staff pawns in your publicity stunt.
KG : I am humiliated.

Or words to that effect. Seriously – if you set yourself up for a fall, don’t complain when that fall happens.

I’m not saying that registry office staff should be abusive to couples who come and ask for something that they already know they can’t have, just don’t claim to be humiliated when you yourselves were intent on using the registry office staff for your own publicity purposes.

21 Comments on “Humiliation?

  1. It's probably no sillier than the Not Ashamed campaign launched today (I sincerely hope not to try to smother attention to World AIDS Day?) The article in today's Ekklesia put the case clearly that "it is tragic that a group of Christians, characterised by their obsession with sexuality, are choosing to overwrite World Aids Day with their own ‘day’. Entitled “Not Ashamed Day” it is supposed to be about getting Christians to stand up and declare their faith following a number of cases of alleged ‘persecution’". Are these people in their polite middle-class way really any better than the 'Christians' who send hate mail to Dawkins, I wonder.

    I thought Bishop Baines gave a more measured approach than Lord Carey and Andrea Minchiello Williams's claim the Christians are persecuted in this country. (Especially odd coming from an ex-archbishop who has been made a lord in his own right.)

    • The "obsession with sexuality" is all on the side you liberals! I would hardly mention it were it not thrust in my face at regular intervals.
      Liberals are so obsessed with sex that they have encouraged legislation that virtually bans anyone who disagrees with them from saying so – in case they get prosecuted for "hate speech", loose their jobs and careers, or get vilified and ordered into reeducation.

      • Examples? The "Christian" Institute have their cases thrown out of court for good reasons (namely, as with The Daily Heil's whipping up of asylum-related tensions to sell papers, they traffic in hotbutton propaganda that has nothing to do with reality). Curious what you'd think constitutes having sex 'thrust in your face '(er, so to speak ); in the apparent golden age that 'conservatives' are keen to go back to, gay people couldn't hold their partner's hands in public without attracting abuse. And compare and contrast the *genuine*, historical fact of homophobic persecution (being fired for being gay; here in Scotland male homosexuality was illegal until 1980) with the supposed hardships and persecutions brought about by the "politically correct''. 'Conservatives' being 'forced' to act civilly to pooves is, to riot in understatement, not exactly the Baatan Death March.

        • Cerebusboy, isn't most of that a disingenuous argument? I don't know any conservative Christian who wouldn't act civilly towards everyone – being conservative Christian means obeying the commands of Jesus and the Apostles (chief among which was loving everyone, right and wrong, good and bad, and even praying for those who despise and abuse you).

          Or by "acting civilly" do you mean acting and speaking as if I agree and support everything everyone else wants to do? In which case I guess that you do not do that either!

        • ps Is it any better than firing people because (they let it be known that) they're gay if people get fired for asking their employer to use someone else to approved gay partnerships or gay adoption?
          pps Just cos the law allows their employers to sack them, doesn't make it right!

      • "The "obsession with sexuality" is all on the side you liberals!"

        David, I made a post pointing out an equal silliness to the story Peter reported above and you, without knowing me or anything about me, immediately blow off and try to demonise me as one of "you liberals". How would you like it if I without knowing anything about you lumped you together with "Not Ashamed Day ninnies" or "Dawkins anti-science 'Christian' hate-spewers"?

        BTW you didn't comment on my other link. Do you villify Bishop Baines as "one you liberals" too?

        I take it Peter's lesson on Dawkins's hate-mailers didn't impress you then?

        • Hi Tom, You're welcome to drop the "you", so:
          The "obsession with sexuality" is all on the side of liberals!

          I didn't see the point in commenting on Nick's post (he's ok) cos we are discussing liberal twisting of human rights into an excuse to enforce their views on everyone who disagrees – not who thinks what.

          The joke is that the last government was claiming some sort of moral high ground, imposing it's morality on sex on the pretext of human rights, while at the same time apparently colluding in torture, and asking for exemptions from human rights for employees! LIBERALS JUST SEEM TO PICK THE RIGHTS THAT SUIT WHAT THEY WANT :-)

  2. David, if a person won't do his job because he claims he ought to have some special privilege or exemption, even to discriminate against or otherwise treat unfavourably otherwise innocent and law-abiding citizens but the courts rule he has no such claim and his actions are illegal, then he has the option to do the job he is paid to do or get out and find a job away from the public sector.

    Next you will be telling us the judges in all the cases that the Christian Institute lost were "activist 'liberal' judges".

    • Tom, you can't make this into a discussion of the integrity of judges. The courts were just interpreting the recent laws.
      The trouble is that those laws consequences are disproportionate and equality is applied asymetrically. Disproportionate because someone can be legally sacked for even talking about wanting to avoid certain duties, and Asymetrical because the employer has to respect the rights of customers/clients (even Christians) but not of employees!
      Human Rights is supposed to be about maximising the rights and freedoms of everyone, not just and excuse for imposing your views of what is right and wrong!

      • I urge you not to fall for the victimisation trope of Christian Concern, aka Christian Concern For Our Nation, whose real purpose is opposition to equality legislation. They also object to civil partnerships and would like to see a ban on abortion in ALL circumstances……and I have read elsewhere but I hope it is wrong, the reintroduction of the death penalty
        (it would be very odd for people who claim to reverence life from cradle to grave, saying that only God can take life away – but then this is the kind of muddle biblical literalists get themselves into).

              • I quote directly from the Ekklesia URL I linked to: "The campaign is based on the false premise that Christians as a group are facing “discrimination” in Britain. This view is the main preoccupation of Christian Concern, who were until recently known as Christian Concern For Our Nation, or CCFON. Given the organisation’s policies – which include opposition to equality legislation, hostility to civil partnerships, a ban on abortion in all circumstances and the reintroduction of the death penalty – it might be thought that it wasn’t the name that needed changing."

                Is Symon Hill mistaken?

                • I see no evidence from you or Simon that CC support a full ban on abortion in all curcumstances, or a reintroduction of the death penalty. Neither have you presented any evidence that CC want to ban civil partnerships.

                  • My source for the death penalty question was Symon – I think I made that clear in the original post. I repeat what I said for clarification: "and I have read elsewhere but I hope it is wrong, the reintroduction of the death penalty…"

                    On abortion this is what the CCFON website says: "
                    Since the introduction of the Abortion Act 1967, there have been over 7 million abortions in the UK. This is a tragedy. As well as the loss of life it has led to a general disregard for the sanctity of life in society. In addition, there is accumulating evidence of the serious consequences of abortion on mothers including potential damage to their physical and mental health. At Christian Concern we resist abortion and aim to inform women of its dangers. We believe that every unborn child should have their right to life protected."

                    Clearly they don't say abortion should never be allowed but they do say "every unborn child should have their right to life protected". I hope you'll agree that they do not state any reasons where it might be (e.g a Father raping his daughter.) so this means even on their website they are dealing in soundbites. For lawyers I hope you think that is a strange dereliction. I would like to take up this conversation with Symon Hill too.

                    • So let's be clear:

                      i) You don't argue with the fact that Symon's allegation re the death penalty is hearsay. You can provide no evidence that CC support it's return.
                      ii) You recognise that your quote off the CC website re abortion is nuanced. It does not say that abortion should be banned. It talks about resisting abortion but that does not equal a ban. It talks about how every unborn child has a right to life, but that still leaves space for the right to life of the mother to be taken into account. QED – you have not demonstrated that CC support a ban on abortion.
                      iii) You have provided no documentary evidence whatsoever that CC support repealing the Civil Partnership bill.


  3. Employees should have the right to discriminate? Really? Of course people are and should be free to believe in whatever religious doctrine they like, but public servants (such as registars) are exactly that. The fact that certain groups feel persecuted because they are no longer allowed to persecute others is hardly a convincing moral argument. I'm very much against firing anyone for their religious beliefs; are you against firing people for being gay? 'Human rights' are about *justice* and so morality. Remember when conservative evangelical posterboy C.S. Lewis said he wouldn't think much of 'Mohammadans' seeking to ban everyone from drinking wine? Suggesting that public servants are free to disregard their duties to *all* in favour of private prejudices is absurd. The implications suggest (wholly immoral) anarchy. Not that long ago in this country gay people were demonstrable criminalised, whereas the ''Christian'' Institute have their cases thrown out of court for a good reasons. It might be tempting for believers to indulge in alarmist rhetoric, but it very much is not supported by the facts.

    • What I argued was that employees should have their human rights respected too!!
      Employees should have the right to request *where reasonably practicable* that their employer assign duties that do not breach their human rights. All the sackings we've heard about were not in situations where there was no-one else who could have done the duties that were against the employee's rights. Indeed, that last Government's Equalities Dept actually said that it is ok for employers to take employees rights into account – but they didn't insist!!

      ps disapproval is hardly persecution – or you are persecuting me!!

  4. I quoted Symon Hill's comments. Whether they are hearsay remains to be established. As I said, Symon needs to be asked and given an opportunity to defend himself against your accusation. Perhaps you have his email; I don't.

    I still maintain that it is clear CCFON object to Equality legislation which was my original point. I quote from their website: "Due to the recent increase in equality legislation there has been a profound shift in UK law, resulting in homosexuality being given increasing protection as a ‘right’. Unfortunately this has led to serious consequences for Christians. Although both religious belief and homosexuality are protected to some extent under equality law, these two strands are often incompatible with one another. The law is unbalanced in this area, first within the legislation and then worsened in judicial interpretation, favouring the protection of sexual orientation over the protection of religious belief. This has led to Christians losing their jobs after refusing to compromise their beliefs at work and Christians being stopped from being foster parents. At Christian Concern we campaign for legislation that will safeguard historic Christian freedoms."

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