This month the Westminster Government announced its proposals for marriage equality in England and Wales. I was pleased to see them expand their plans beyond just civil marriages to include religious marriages. However there remain some issues with the proposals that need to be addressed before legislation is introduced.
1. Equal Civil Partnerships
I'm no fan of civil partnerships (I'd hope, by now, you'd be more than aware of this!) but they do exist. And they shall continue to exist under the current Government proposals. However there are no plans to open them up to mixed-sex couples. I suspect the reasoning behind this remains the same as when civil partnerships were first discussed; the Government worries that religious and conservative people will feel that giving mixed-sex couples a choice might undermine marriage. I.e. people might prefer them to getting married. It is a real concern, however in not giving a choice to mixed-sex couples the Government not only discriminates against mixed-sex couples but also allows opponents of equal marriage to claim LGBT folk have special rights.
Even more concerningly it'll mean that civil partners where one half of the couple gets a GRC will have their civil partnership turned into a marriage. Hardly respecting their right to choose!
For the sake of fairness, and consistency, it is only right civil partnerships be open to couples regardless of gender.
2. Equal Pension Rights
One of those annoying differences between civil partnerships and marriage, and it is not fixed by the Government's plans. Same-sex married couples will still need to take pension providers to court under the Equality Act in order to get what mixed-sex couples get without question.
3. Dissolved Marriages Not Restored
Here's something Cllr. Sarah Brown was talking about well before these proposals were announced. Read the linked article. Not resolved by the Government's plans.
4. Adultery And Consummation
Just to cheer us gay guys up, the Government is clear that married men who have sex with men will not be committing adultery. Oh sure, you can still use it as an excuse to divorce but its not real adultery. Just putting that out there (my number is available upon request).
Of course I jest (about the number, you've probably got it already ;) ), but seriously Scotland manages to do without the legal concept of consummation and the Catholic church hasn't exploded. And why is it so difficult to make adultery into the concept of having sex with someone who you aren't married to?
Rather than use the opportunity to make marriage laws modern, or at least clear them up a little, the Government appears to be making two different kinds of marriage. Which is absolutely not what any one was asking for...
The Coalition need to think carefully about why they are making these changes, because right now it would appear to be paying a lot of lip service to the idea but not quite grasping the concept. Let us hope some amendments can come from within the Lib Dem contingent in the Commons (as Labour appear hellbent on defending the already protected churches rather than LGBT people).
As I've alluded to in my last few posts, I'm moving on from this topic. I just thought I'd put my issues with the current proposals out there clearly before I head off in search of angry pastures new. I wish you a very Happy New Year, Dear Constant Reader and I'll see you back here for something completely different next week...