Image: Tom Freeman, Katherine Doyle
Alastair Grant  /  AP
Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, a heterosexual couple, with their rejection letter outside Islington Register Office in London, after failing to get a civil partnership Tuesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/9/2010 8:37:26 AM ET 2010-11-09T13:37:26

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle are in love and want to tie the knot — but they don't want to get married.

The 26-year-old Londoners think they should be allowed to have a civil partnership, a form of legal union available in Britain only to same-sex couples. Gay rights activists are backing the couple's bid in an attempt to legalize gay marriage.

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"We want to secure official status for our relationship in a way that supports the call for complete equality and is free of the negative, sexist connotations of marriage," Freeman said according to Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"We are taking this stand against discrimination and in support of legal equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation," he said.

Doyle and Freeman were refused a permit Tuesday from their local town hall, setting up a likely appeal.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who accompanied Doyle and Freeman at the Islington registry office, said "denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is heterophobic."

Marriage and civil partnership are virtually identical in law, and activists think both should be open to all couples.

Britain introduced civil partnerships in 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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