Thursday, 24 June 2010

Religious Civil Partnerships: Muddlesome

I think one of the key duties of any "liberal" Government is to keep our legal system as simple as possible. After years of Labour adding new Acts and amendments to our legal structure, I would've thought we'd learnt the lesson: simple and streamlined is better than complex and bulky.

Sadly, if the Coalition's attitudes to things are anything to go by, yet more layers of complexity are being added to existing structures on top of already complicated systems.

So as it stood: religious marriage was different to civil marriage and civil partnerships were different to both. The latter two could not be performed with a religious character.

So... obviously straight people who were religious but not keen on organised religion were discrimated against and religious LGBT people/organisations were discriminated against. On top of this came the fact religious transgendered people were also discriminated against as, for example, a male and female couple could get a religious marriage. If the man realised he wanted a transition to reflect his female side and his wife was fine with that, the couple would need to completely divorce, lose several accumulated rights, and then engage in a brand new civil partnership. Let me make this clear: SAME people, DIFFERENT laws dependent on how they identify!! Imagine the pain and upset that must cause.

So we have a confusing situation already. What to do? I would suggest a complete overhaul of the system, introducing a new contract that was amenable to all the scenarios above (and several more I suspect) and allow the individuals and organisations concerned to make up their own minds as to what sort of ceremony or lack thereof they required. Alas, the Coalition has decided to add ANOTHER layer of complexity to the situation.

Chris Bryant, Labour, asked a written question which was answered yesterday (They Work For You). It, in itself, was a question aimed more a complicating the process rather than simplifying it:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will bring forward proposals to allow civil weddings and partnership ceremonies to include religious readings, music and symbols."

Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Equalities) Lib Dem, answered:

Currently, same-sex couples can enter a civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which gives them the opportunity to obtain legal recognition of their relationship. Couples who register their civil partnerships gain vital rights and protections, similar to married couples. Civil partnership registrations are entirely secular in nature and, as with civil marriage, prohibited from taking place on religious premises, or containing any religious language. An amendment made to the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnerships taking place on religious premises.

This Government are committed to supporting civil partnerships. This week, the Prime Minister launched Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality, an ambitious programme of work to tackle outdated prejudices and ensure equal chances for everyone, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity. It contains a commitment to talk to those with a key interest in this issue about what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organisations can allow same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so.

Absolute madness. Here's an idea. Instead of the Government legislating for or against which type of "partnership" a couple should or should not be allowed, how about letting those involved decide individually as and when required???

The Government's attempts at compromise on this issue between those of certain sexualities and those of certain prejudices leads to leaving no one happy.

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On one side is the irrational position of "literalist" (ie fundamentalist) religious people who insist that God is subordinate to religious texts, and who are aggressively against marriage for same sex couples. On the other are religious people who credit God with more wisdom, who see the denial of equal marriage as discrimination and therefore sinful. Hopefully parliment will make the right decision eventually. If they give in to irrationality we may end up like the US with endless "hot button" issues, which make for bad laws.