Saturday, 9 February 2013

How The UK Government May End Up Creating "Gay Marriage" Rather Than #EqualMarriage

Once more I risk falling into a traditionalists view of the "homosexual activist" being forever unsatisfied by the crumbs that they throw at us. But the more I look at the Government's proposed Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, the more I think the Government is doing it wrong.

Of course I've already made plain my problems with the bill (which ignores consummation, adultery, the pension problems, opposite-sex civil partnerships and the restitution of marriages dissolved due to getting a GRC). Some of these oversights stand a good chance of getting fixed as the bill progresses through the legislative process (I'm thinking of submitting evidence to the committee myself on these points).

But there is something far more depressing about this bill and that is in its language. As our opponents like to complain, language matters. Added to the consummation and adultery issues it would appear the Government is creating two types of marriage. The way it is approaching amending the pertinent Acts is rather different to how other English speaking administrations have gone about it.

Canada's legislation defined marriage as:
Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.
Maine did it thusly:
Marriage is the legally recognized union of 2 people. Gender-specific terms relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, including, but not limited to, "spouse," "family," "marriage," "immediate family," "dependent," "next of kin," "bride," "groom," "husband," "wife," "widow" and "widower," must be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law.
And Maryland amended the bit in [] to read:

Only a marriage between [a man and a woman] TWO INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE NOT OTHERWISE PROHIBITED FROM MARRYING is valid in this State
This is how you do "marriage equality". You make marriage gender-neutral. Though it is tricky, it is the clearest way to make marriage between two people the same regardless of the gender of the participants. So what does our Government's bill do?
Marriage of same sex couples is lawful.
This is quite different to equal marriage. This is far more in keeping with South Africa's creation of different types of marriage, which they only continued when they created "Same-sex marriages". What becomes clear, reading through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is that the Government is creating same-sex marriage (dare I say "gay marriage) and is quite clearly not working towards marriage equality in the way most nations and states have done in the past. Here are a few more quotes from the bill.

Effect of extension of marriage 
(1) In the law of England and Wales, marriage has the same effect in relation to same sex couples as it has in relation to opposite sex couples.
Same, same but different. Marriage rights will be equal, which is something to celebrate, but it still clearly states the difference.

Northern Ireland 
2 (1) Under the law of Northern Ireland, a marriage of a same sex couple under 30the law of England and Wales is to be treated as a civil partnership formed under the law of England and Wales (and accordingly, the spouses are to be treated as civil partners).
Dealing with Scotland and Northern Ireland differently is a necessity due to our increasingly messy constitution but again same-sex couples are not married, they are same-sex married which means they can be separated out and treated differently in other parts of the UK.
In section 8(2) (meaning of certain terms), in the definition of “guaranteed minimum pension”, after “widower’s” insert “, surviving same sex spouse’s”.
Widowers and same-sex spouses. That is what we get. Just like "Married or in a civil partnership". Same, same but different. To give it credit, the bill does look to the future and has this to say on future legislation:

(2)The following expressions have the meanings given— (a)“husband” includes a man who is married to another man; (b)“wife” includes a woman who is married to another woman; (c)  “widower” includes a man whose marriage to another man ended with the other man’s death (d)“widow” includes a woman whose marriage to another woman ended with the other woman’s death;and related expressions are to be construed accordingly. 
So yes, going forward things will become a little more equal. But it is a mess, isn't it?

The problem seems to be that the Government is terrified of all those who screamed bloody murder at the idea of husband, wife, mother, father etc. being removed from the language of law. They warned of Progenitor A and Progenitor B being used instead and made a great big song and dance about how we'd all be banned from refering to our wife as "my wife" (just like in Spain, Canada, the US states etc. where no one says that anymore [note this is sarcasm for any Coalition for Marriage supporters reading]). In an effort to compromise they are dangerously close to simply putting into law the concept of "gay marriage". Which somewhat misses the point.

Is this really what I imagined when I asked for marriage equality? No. I was expecting something more along the Canadian model. Does this mean we shouldn't support the bill? No. Just as I wished our "friends" in the House of Commons had been more honest during the Civil Partnership debates but still voted in favour, I would wish that our allies in Parliament now stated clearly these concerns exist then held their noses and voted it through (if satisfactory amendments weren't forthcoming of course). It may be a flawed bill, but it may be the best we are going to get.

But one upside is that this rather undermines the Coalition for Marriage's concerns about the Government redefining marriage. Nope, they are just making a new kind. Nothing for you guys to worry about at all.


Anonymous said...

Look the govt is asking for written submission to the committee

If you feel so strongly about the issue then submit something. I don't know why more people don't rather than leave it to Stonewall and I don't know why it isn't more widely publicised that people dan submit their own thoughts and ideas on equal marriage.

Anglican Mainstream is promoting the submission process but none of the gay organisations are.

Jae Kay said...

You may note, from the second paragraph of this blog post, that already intend to do so.