Equal love campaign launched
A QUAKER COUPLE are at the centre of a plan to launch legal action over same-sex marriage in the UK.
The Equal Love campaign involves four same-sex couples attempting to register their marriages, and four mixed-sex couples applying for civil partnerships. All eight couples expect to be refused and will then take the issue to the courts.
The first step was taken on Tuesday, when Sharon Ferguson, a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church, was refused permission to marry her female partner. They rejected the option of a civil partnership. Sharon told the Friend that ‘as Christians, we believe in the sanctity of marriage’, which she described as a ‘God-given institution’.
A mixed-sex Quaker couple, Ian Goggin and Kristin Skarsholt, will apply for a civil partnership in Bristol on 23 November.
‘We’re not asking for something extraordinary. We’re asking for something quite ordinary,’ said Ian, ‘I don’t think we can go out and shout at other people’s segregation if we’re ignoring our own’.
‘Words do matter,’ insisted Kristin. She said they would rather avoid the terminology of husband and wife because ‘there’s so much history engrained in those terms, of ownership and so on’.
Ian added that a long legal case ‘is quite a scary idea, but I think we’re in it for the long haul’.
The campaigners are backed by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. They are receiving legal advice from Robert Wintemute, professor of law at King’s College London.
Same-sex marriage is now recognised in seven European countries, as well as Argentina, Canada and South Africa. Meanwhile, equalities minister Lynne Featherstone has met with Friends and other groups as she seeks to implement a new law that will allow religious elements in same-sex civil partnerships.
Quakers campaigned heavily for the change, following a decision in 2009 that same-sex marriages among Friends would be carried out in ‘exactly’ the same way as other marriages. A revised version of the marriage chapter of Quaker faith & practice will be presented for consideration to Britain Yearly Meeting in 2011.
‘If Quakers believe the law is wrong, I hope they’ll defy it,’ said Peter Tatchell. He told the Friend that ‘even if the government refuses to recognise such marriages, the point will be made that Quakers do not accept discrimination on sexual orientation. It will add to the impetus for ending the ban on same-sex marriage.’
BAE accounts to be examined
CAMPAIGNERS HAVE welcomed the news that arms giant BAE Systems will have its accounts investigated by the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB).
The Board’s decision comes only months after the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) dropped multiple investigations into BAE. The SFO was criticised for accepting a fine of £30million and an admission of ‘accounting irregularities’.
The ADDB will study accounts drawn up by the firm KPMG ‘in relation to the commissions paid by BAE through any route to subsidiaries, agents and any connected companies’ between 1997 and 2007.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said that subsidiary companies have played a crucial role in the BAE deals that have been dogged by allegations of corruption. CAAT’s Kaye Stearman insisted, ‘It is vital that this investigation is done thoroughly and well and that any wrongdoing is punished.’
Sarah Sexton of The Corner House, an anti-corruption NGO, said she hoped the accountancy investigation will ‘spur the Serious Fraud Office to bring the settlement back to court as soon as possible’.
Symon Hill the Friend, 5 November 2010