Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Marriage Equality: What Are We Waiting For?

It's time for a little update on the fight for marriage equality in the UK.

With regards to last summer's civil partnership consultation, it looks likely that Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem and Minister for Equality, will announce religious civil partnerships can go ahead. It's not really a massive announcement as the consultation was never really about IF they could go ahead.

Both the Telegraph, linked to above, and Pinknews' follow up story on this suggest that the Government is also considering full marriage equality. I'm reluctant to completely believe this as the Telegraph story seems more to be drawing conclusions from the general direction of the debate over the last year (Simon Hughes answer to my Yoosk question and Peter Tatchell's involvement in the Equal Love campaign are mentioned for instance) than from having any real insider knowledge.

Based on this I think my temporary period of going easy on the Coalition over this must come to an end. Expect to see me beginning to irritate Coalition ministers and Government civil servants once more.

In other news, the aforementioned Equal Love campaign's move to take their case to court was delayed in December due to an error by Camden Council.  Hopefully it should be able to move forward again this month. Based on previous outcomes of similar trials, such as this Austrian one, I hold little hope that the actual bid will be successful BUT understand how useful the threat of a successful bid can be in getting British Governments to change their ways. It worked well with Labour on the age of consent and military service after all! Let's hope Minister's pay attention.

The most important thing of note with regards to the future of marriage equality in this country is an amazing change in language. Thanks mainly to the Stonewall fiasco last year and the Equal Love campaign getting plenty of media attention (plus lots of questions on the subject to politicians!), the phrase "civil partnerships" when mentioned in the media or in speeches can rarely be heard without the caveat that some think they are inadequate or that some are fighting for marriage equality. Given I've spent the five years before last year's general election pulling my hair out at the total lack of voices supporting marriage equality, I can say without question that this bodes very well for the prospects of reform. You can see it in the Telegraph article I linked to above, or in Ed Miliband's latest speech on the subject over the weekend (nice to hear this from a man who once said this to me), or in Stephen Gilbert's remarks in the adjournment debate in the House of Commons just before Christmas.

Not much appears to be happening in Scotland on the subject right now, but there is a symposium on marriage equality on the 27th January. It'll be interesting to hear what is discussed and see if there's likely to be any progress on the matter in the Scottish Parliament this year. The Scottish Parliament elections will be an excellent opportunity to get some answers from candidates on the subject.

So the next couple of months should see a few news stories in the national media mentioning marriage equality and perhaps some surprise Government announcement (yeah, right) soon. Let's hope for progress!

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

1 comment:

Paul Brownsey said...

"an amazing change in language"

One linguistic development is that, so it seems, more and more people are referring to CPs as weddings and using the other terminology of marriage: people say, e.g. "We're going to a gay wedding next month."

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can't make up my mind. It's good in that it shows most people see no essential difference between gay unions and straight ones and wouldn't be fazed by a legal change. The fact that people use the language of marriage for CPs might be cited in support of legal change - "The British public have no problem with this." But it may be a bad thing in that, as this usage sets in, people may think we've got marriage equality already - I think Boris Johnson fell into this and so pressure for legal euqality may be thought to be much ado about nothing.