Sunday, 18 September 2011

Being The Marriage Equality Party-Pooper Is Never Popular

I hate feeling like the Cassandra (whether my prophesies come true or not!) of the marriage equality fight. With each positive step forward made, I'm there to piss off everyone else by saying "Well this simply isn't good enough". 

I suppose it stems from what happened when civil partnerships were introduced. I was simply horrified at the implications of such a separate but equal institution whilst everyone I knew was busy celebrating and moving on. The insults and abuse (and I'm not over-egging that, four letter words and all) I got from the pro-civil partnership side for daring to question why we didn't have marriage equality was intense.

Ultimately I feel (rather self-consciously) vindicated by the direction the debate has taken in the last two years. But now I can't let go of the fact that true marriage equality is within our grasp, and yet it constantly seems to be slipping away. 

Yesterday's announcement of a consultation regarding the legislation of civil marriage was a marvellous step forward (said through gritted teeth as always, sorry!), especially considering this is coming from a Government dominated by Tories. On blogs and Twitter there was plenty of a criticism from people who aren't me, which means at least I'm not alone in my opinions, and plenty of criticism of them for being such miserable bastards. I can understand the cries of "can't you just be happy?", I really can. There are practical suggestions as well such as this over the continuing ban on same sex religious marriage from Lib Dem Voice's comments feed: 

It is a realistic solution. Be imaginative. If the Unitarians want to marry gay couples then every few weeks they can designate their church to not be a religious venue for a few hours. Whatever. But fundamentally I don’t care about arguments between the religions about what should and shouldn’t be allowed in their respective temples. We have proper problems that we should be spending our time fixing, not that.
A work around! It makes so much sense, and then we don't need to bother with our silly little worries about equality, etc. 

The failure of this consultation is two-fold in my view and whilst there are always work arounds (hell, we could get a blessing and civil partnership now and then why bother with any further legislation?!), I think the failure is important enough for people to at least acknowledge it's short comings. 

1) the lack of scope to consider the future of civil partnerships (something last year's consultation on civil partnerships failed to fully do) leaves the transgendered communities concerns over legal continuation of partnerships after transition only half solved. The similar lack of scope on allowing religious communities to carry out marriage is almost criminal. This lack of scope does not feel me with confidence that this will be actual marriage equality but instead will be "gay marriage" under separate legislation as is the case in South Africa (where at least they have a tradition of different legal types of marriage to make them seem almost acceptable). 

2) the presentation of the announcement suggests to me this is where the line is now being drawn, just as with civil partnerships back in 2004 and that there's no planned further push in the Government's mind. Which leaves the question hanging for another few years at least. 

I think Lynne Featherstone summed up how "finalised" this all is in her speech yesterday when she, without sign of sarcasm announced:

I will be raising the issue with Governments all over the world and will continue to push everyone, from allies to adversaries, to recognise what we know is true:
That Gay Rights are Human Rights.
No excuses, no exceptions, no compromises.

Before announcing civil marriage for same sex couples in the very next breath which is quite obviously a compromise, an exception and I suspect the excuse will be "There are more important things to worry about" or "We're in a Coalition Government, we can't get everything we want". But she didn't even voice the concerns that there might be any issues. 

I know she listened to concerns at last nights LGBT+ AGM at the Lib Dem conference and said all the right things, which leaves me to think this was an omission she made purposefully rather than through sheer misunderstanding of the issue. I.e. playing politics with LGBT rights and selling us out for the sake of a barnstorming speech. 

I can be happy that some people's concerns are being addressed. But I have to be the party-pooper, I'm compelled to continue fighting for what I've always fought for. Because I truly believe in "No excuses, no exceptions, no compromises". And if I must bring upon myself the ire of my Lib Dem friends who just want me to shut up, be happy and get with the programme, then that I will happily accept. I might be miserable, I might be boring, I might be a broken record. But I think I'm in the right... and thus tomorrow I'll be drafting a letter to the Equalities department raising my concerns for consideration in this consultation (not that that's ever done any good before, even Lynne Featherstone's acknowledged my concerns and then moved on without addressing them). 

I persevere. 

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


penwing said...

I guess I was lucky in being surrounded by people who agreed civil partnerships weren't enough or were considerably more polite about it and was able to help QYA say so in our/their response to the consultation.

But keep at it... respond to consultation... let's see if we can't win this!


Jae said...

I think those people had invested so much of their time and their lives in believing in the all-redeeming power of civil partnerships that any criticism was more than just political debate but personal criticism to them.

Don't worry, as if I'm giving up! :p