Sunday, 16 December 2012

Am I Becoming An Apologist For The Government On #EqualMarriage?

You, Dear Constant Reader, know just how eager I am to get marriage equality into the United Kingdom (yes, even in Northern Ireland). Am I, however, so eager to get it into law that I'm failing to see the wood for the trees?

I think it hit me this week just how different my views on marriage equality are to most of those who support it. When the Church in Wales, and then the Church of England, announced their "shock" at the Government's plans for a "quadruple lock" my first thought was not "What was the Government thinking?" but "What are the churches on about?"

I would argue that this had more to do with the fact that I'd read the Church of England and Church in Wales's submissions to the marriage equality consultation (and the Church of England's was pretty heavy-handed and quite clear it needed special treatment above and beyond other churches) and that this coloured my response.

Whilst others were aghast at what the Government had "done" (these are proposals folks, not even a bill!), I was a little put out by their own reaction.

Upon reflection, I could have been a little more understanding. The Church in Wales shouldn't have reacted in the way it did, given what it had said in its consultation, but the Archbishop of Cardiff does have a point. The Government should certainly reconsider if the Church in Wales truly doesn't mind only having a "triple lock".

The Church of England's situation is more complicated. Beyond a positive press release, we have yet to hear an official response from the church. Right now what we have instead is political powerplays by the liberal section of the church. I'd rather wait and see what the church actually says than rely on them (and I truly wish Yvette Cooper had had the good sense to do the same before allowing herself to be quoted as calling marriage equality a mess!).

Here is the problem: the Church of England remains divided (as was clearly seen during the women bishops debacle a few weeks ago). Marriage equality is another one of those issues that can be used as a battleground between the liberals and the traditionalists. What saddens me is that, whereas women bishops was more of an internal battle with limited affect upon non-members, this battle will have consequences for people who aren't members. It is already detrimentally dominating the debate on marriage equality.

And that is why I'm mad. I'm not really mad because they are attacking the Government, I'm mad because not only is this silliness a possible cause for delay or derailment of marriage equality but it is overshadowing far more important problems.

What the Government have released is, again upon reflection in the cold light of day, simply a renaming of civil partnerships. It solves the superficial issues regarding the semantic difference, it solves some of the problems for trans people and it resolves our concerns on international recognition. But if does not resolve the status of civil partnerships as it is not offering mixed-sex civil partnerships (which means that trans people in a civil partnership will be forced into a marriage if one of couple transitions), it does not resolve the outstanding pension problems and it does not make any move to reinstate the marriages people were forced to dissolve when they transitioned in the past.

Yes it'd be lovely if the Church of England was to start holding same-sex marriages but that is an issue for them to deal with internally. It is not something that should concern the rest of us. The Anglican vicars threatening to bless same-sex marriages need to think about the bigger picture (and perhaps reconsider their membership of the church!) rather than selfishly use our prospective marriages as fodder for their civil war.

So no I'm not an apologist for the Government, I'd rather like to be a thorn in their side. I'd love to stop having to defend them against ridiculous attacks from other marriage equality campaigners and instead join forces with like-minded folk to get this marriage equality done properly. Who is with me?

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

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