European Court rules: 'Same-sex marriage is not a human right'

Same-sex couples do not have a human right to marry and excluding them from marriage does not constitute discrimination, according to a ruling last week by the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.

The declaration by Europe's top court (download here) that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) "does not require member states' governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage" drives a coach and horses through declarations by the equalities' minister, Lynne Featherstone, that gay partners should not be denied "the right to marry".

The ruling came in a case of a French lesbian couple , Valerie Gas and Nathalie Dubois, who wanted to adopt a child. One of them sought to adopt her partner's daughter and become the girl's other legal parent, but French courts refused, citing a French law that says only married couples are allowed to follow this procedure.

The couple appealed to the European court, based in Strasbourg, saying they were discriminated against because they are gay. But the court ruled Thursday that all non-married couples in France - including homosexual and heterosexual ones in civil unions - face the same adoption restriction. They had sought to establish marriage rights under anti-discrimination laws -- the very ground on which the Government wishes to introduce same-sex marriage in the UK -- but the judges ruled that no discrimination had occurred.

"With regard to married couples, the court considers that in view of the social, personal and legal consequences of marriage, the applicants' legal situation could not be said to be comparable to that of married couples", the judges noted.

The judges also said that if same-sex unions became lawful, any church that refuses to marry gay couples could be charged with discrimination. The Government has said this will not happen. But Neil Addison, a specialist in discrimination law (pictured here addressing the Catholic Voices Academy last November), told the Daily Mail: "Once same-sex marriage has been legalised then the partners to such a marriage are entitled to exactly the same rights as partners in a heterosexual marriage.

"This means that if same-sex marriage is legalised in the UK it will be illegal for the Government to prevent such marriages happening in religious premises.

See AP here, and report in the Telegraph here.

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