Wednesday, 5 May 2010

What has #ge2010 taught us about marriage equality?

Just before the start of this general election I wrote "Gay marriage: The Dream That'll Never Be?". Have I changed my mind on the hopes for marriage equality following a month of politicians campaigning? I have to say... no I haven't.

Thanks mainly to Pink News readers pushing the question with the party leaders, we now are clear on where they stand.

Clegg: The number one question submitted by our readers was on whether Nick Clegg and his party support gay marriage. Mr Clegg said last month he supported civil partners calling themselves husband or wife but would he change the law to allow gay civil marriage?

Yes, I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another.

Pretty clear.

Brown: In response to Downing St online petitions to introduce same-sex marriage, it was stated that the "government has no plans to introduce same-sex marriage", because it has to "balance the right to live free from prejudice and discrimination with the right to freedom of speech and religion". In what ways does same-sex marriage affect freedom of speech and religion? Andrew Archer

"At the moment there’s a distinction drawn between civil and religious unions, and when civil partnerships were being introduced they took the same form as a civil union which a heterosexual couple would have. We later made it illegal to discriminate on partnership status – so it is illegal to treat someone in a civil partnership different to a married person. That makes no practical difference in terms of rights and responsibilities, but does recognise that religious groups have the right to a certain degree of self-organisation on questions that are theologically important to them, including on the question of religiously-sanctioned marriage. So the provision of ‘marriage’ as opposed to the provision of same-sex or heterosexual civil unions, is intimately bound up with questions of religious freedom."

So gay people can't organise a religious union because....?

Cameron: Mr Cameron, do you support marriage equality in this country? Civil partnerships were a great step forward and I admire your support for it but until there is marriage equality in this country and the union of same-sex couples will be recognised as a 'marriage', then I will not be satisfied. Neil Young

I am so glad that we now have civil partnerships. They have helped remove discrimination and have given gay people the rights that they deserve. I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I'm open to changing things further to guarantee equality. But I also accept there are some gay people who want civil partnerships to be a distinct status from marriage. Whatever view you take, I think we should support any arrangement which is built on shared love and commitment, which is why we would give a tax break to both married couples and those in a civil partnership.

Hmm... could be read in a lot of different ways. Thankfully, or perhaps not, he's now clarified his party's policy.

A Conservative Party spokesman said Mr Cameron's response did not contradict the equality manifesto and said he had focused on the part of the question which suggested the Tories were definitely going to legalise gay marriage.

The spokesman added: "We're not planning to rename civil partnerships at the moment. We are considering it. We recognise there is a case to consider but we're not at that point, there has been no firm decision."
Here is what we have learnt:

1) All three party leaders agree civil partnerships are different to marriage. This helps clear up some of the arguments against marriage equality.
2) Gordon Brown and David Cameron both confirm they do not plan to introduce any legislation to introduce marriage equality. Gordon Brown and the Labour Government appear to confirm they are actually dead set against it, for "religious reasons".
3) Nick Clegg is the only one who actually gave a nice, simple, clear answer to the question presented to him, whereas the other two went round the houses... mainly because they knew the answer they'd give would not be one the audience wished to hear.

If we want marriage equality, we'll need to fight for it. Lobby and bug and press this issue. We cannot rely on the Tory or Labour parties to just do this for us... that is the main lesson we can take away from this election on that issue.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

1 comment:

Paul Brownsey said...

Brown's response is simply muddled. By his argument, straight civil marriage shouldn't be called "marriage", either.

What he says is perhaps testimony to the extent to which the religious have succeeded in claiming marriage as peculiarly their own, so much so that a lot of people think that somehow civil marriage is religious marriage entered into without any sort of religious ceremony. Straights who disdain civil marriage sometimes actually say it's because they don't hold with all the "whom God hath joined" stuff.