anniversary unmarried partners concession

Darienne and Fiona –  25th anniversary since the first positive recognition of same sex relationships in the UK

Darienne: “I’m originally from South African and met Fiona, who is a British citizen, in Greece. We lived there for a while, I was working in a restaurant as a cook. After a number of years, Fiona wanted to come back to the UK to study here. I came back with her, but with my South African passport I couldn’t stay”.

Fiona: ”We actually didn’t know that she couldn’t stay(!). We imagined that there would be a process whereby she would be able to stay. I wrote to the Home Secretary and explained that I had this same sex partner and that we didn’t fit into the paperwork, naively asking what we could do. But there wasn’t any option. They said that when the visitor’s visa ran out she’d have to leave the country.

Both continue explaining their story: “At that point the Stonewall Immigration Group was starting to be formulated as a group, because it was right at the beginning, in 1993. I found out there were four other couples that were in a similar situation and we started meeting up. The Home Office had deported Darienne back to her country of origin, South Africa, and it was very difficult to bring her back to the UK and to be able to start the appeal process. Once she was back in the UK we started working our way up through the courts towards a Judicial Review, as the Stonewall legal team had decided our case was the most promising.

The more we got involved in the process, the more we thought there was absolutely no way that the government could get away with this. All they were offering us was deportation, despite the risk of immediate danger to LGBT people in South Africa at the time. We found out that the law permitted a man to bring in as many concubines as he wanted but people could not bring their same sex partner. We were really determined to fight this to the bitter end. Sometimes you don’t choose your battles, they choose you, and that was one of those battles that chose us.

The more we got involved in the process, the more we thought there was absolutely no way that the government could get away with this.

It looked likely that we were going to win the Judicial Review. The Guardian did a double page spread on our case, we had masses of support, and then 3 or 4 days before the judicial review was due, the Government made us an out-of-court offer. They said that if we dropped the Judicial Review they would grant us an individual settlement. Our legal team advised us to accept the deal, because winning  wasn’t 100% certainty and everyone agreed we had done our bit by forcing the government to admit a Judicial Review was needed.

Although it took another 15 years to get to the point to have complete equal rights as a couple, the Unmarried Partners’ Concession was a hugely positive first step for all of us who fell in love with someone of the same gender, but a different nationality”.