A British judge on Monday dismissed a bid by two female professors to have their same-sex wedding in Canada recognized as a marriage in Britain.

Judge Mark Potter, head of Britain's High Court Family Division, dismissed the claim by Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger that in defining their relationship as a civil partnership — rather than a marriage — Britain had violated their human rights.

Granting their request would risk undermining the time-honored institution of marriage, he said.

"To accord a same-sex relationship the title and status of marriage would be to fly in the face of the (European) Convention (on Human Rights) as well as to fail to recognize physical reality," Potter wrote in his ruling.

CountryWatch: United Kingdom

Potter said there was a "long-standing definition and acceptance" that the term marriage referred to a relationship between a man and a woman, primarily designed for producing and rearing children.

Wilkinson, 49, and Kitzinger, 52, wed in Vancouver, British Columbia, after the province ushered in laws allowing same-sex marriages in 2003, but said the judge on Monday had effectively stripped away the legitimacy of their union.

"We are deeply disappointed by the judgment, not just for ourselves but for other gay couples and families," Wilkinson said after walking from the courtroom hand in hand with her partner.

"It perpetuates discrimination and it sends out the message that lesbian and gay marriages are inferior."

Potter said he believed people across Europe would acknowledge the importance of upholding a traditional concept of marriage.

"The belief that this form of relationship is the one which best encourages stability in a well-regulated society is not a disreputable or outmoded notion based upon ideas of exclusivity, marginalization, disapproval or discrimination against homosexuals," Potter said.

Wilkinson and Kitzinger were told by Potter they have the right to challenge the ruling at Britain's Court of Appeal.

But Kitzinger said their life savings have been exhausted by the court's decision that they must pay the government's legal costs of 25,000 pounds (US$46,590; euro36,500).

"We are hopeful we will be able to appeal but need help to fund the cost, which will likely be the same amount again," Kitzinger told The Associated Press.

"Though we're disappointed, we are sure there will be a day — within our lifetimes — when there will be equality for same-sex marriage. This judgment will not stand the test of time."

Joanne Sawyer, a legal officer with civil liberties group Liberty, who represented the couple, said she also believed the ruling would in future be seen as out-of-step with contemporary values.

The Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and Spain have legalized same-sex marriage, while several other European countries have laws similar to Britain —where same-sex couples have the right to form legally binding civil partnerships, entitling them to most of the same tax and pension rights as married couples.

In the United States, only the state of Massachusetts allows gay marriage, while Vermont and Connecticut permit civil unions.