Gay marriage

This week the government announced plans for civil partnerships – a way for same sex couples to register their relationships and get the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. According to the BBC,

Under the plans, gay couples will not be entitled to a "marriage" ceremony, but will be able to sign an official document at a register office in front of the registrar and two witnesses.

This is, to me, great news. It covers all the important stuff – inheritance rights (without the tax liability), ability to be named as next of kin (including making decisions about care when your partner is incapacitated and the right to register the death of a partner), and you have go through a formal process to dissolve the partnership. What I don’t get, though, is how this plan differs from marriage. What don’t we get that married people do get? Apart, of course, from the religious bit. It seems to me that this is gay marriage in all but name. Which is just fine by me, really.

Interestingly, Peter Tatchell (and others) said that he thought the fact that civil partnerships are only open to same sex couples was ‘heterophobic‘. As is often the case, I completely disagree with the man. My experience of talking to heterosexual couples about why they haven’t married suggests that they would gain nothing by being included in the legislation. Some straight couples have religious objections to marriage, but can marry without the religious aspect already. Others have a problem with participating in a state system, but civil partnerships will include gay couples in the state, rather than offer an opt-out. Some have family pressure to marry, but I suggest that’s unlikely to be as difficult to cope with as the average response to telling someone you’re shacking up with your same-sex partner, so I have little sympathy for this. And the other reason for not marrying is about uncertainty about the longevity of the relationship but, again, civil partnerships don’t get around this as civil partnerships have to be dissolved through a legal process and make both parties subject to alimony and the like. All in all, I just don’t get the argument about including straight couples in the scheme.

You can download the consultation paper and comment on it – I certainly plan to.

Also this week, news that there could be a hormonal link to lesbianism. A little scary but worth reading ’cause it has genuine health implications…

9 Replies to “Gay marriage”

  1. So, Jemima, first the bit about the cats, then this, are you trying to tell Sarah something? Anyway, give us plenty of notice won’t you so me and Beth have the time to have matching dresses made and all that. Oooh I haven’t got any shoes either. And I’ll need a handbag for the kleenex. Sorry gotta go shopping.

  2. Oh, fantastic. Now I’m trying to work out if it would be worth it just to get you and Beth in matching frilly dresses!

  3. Firstly, enough about Alastair, he makes me go weak at the knees.

    Secondly, legal rights for straight couples who are not married. Point is is that many co-habiting couples believe they have some form of legal rights due to common law marriage when in fact they dont and end up a croper. Also by creating a ‘special’ ceremony for gay couples, then it could be seen to be highlighting differences, rather than the point of equality. Why not have the same for all couples committed to each other.

    Marriage is also still too often associated with religion, and hence another reason for suggestion that the civil partnership idea should be for all couples.

    and Finally, do you wear hats to these dos or DM boots?

  4. If some couples believe there is such a thing as “common law” marriage, the whole population should be educated, rather than a new law made to accommodate ignorance.

    Maybe these couples are just sort of lazily committed, in that they want the perks without the responsibilities? That’s pretty much what they get… in entering into a marriage/civil partnership you do become consciously aware of your responsibilities and rights and choose to accept these – why should people end up in a situation where they have these rights and responsibilities put upon them without having made that choice?

  5. Definitely agree with Paula and Sarah; I’m not too happy about having a ‘separate’ kind of marriage and I think maybe our legislators might want to have a look at the French PACS, which is a contract laying down not only the partners’ rights, but also their duties, and gives ALL unmarried couples greater legal security.

    Paula, what’s wrong with hats AND DM boots?

  6. I think the strongest argument is that of equality, but that is actually likely to be the hardest fight to win. By allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry or by letting heterosexual couples sign up to a civil partnership you run into problems about undermining the institution of marriage. Political parties are always keen to advocate marriage as the building block of society. I personally think that this is a bizarre concern, given that civil partnerships are pretty much marriage by another name, but it makes it difficult to sell the idea to a large section of the populace. Once people are comfortable with the idea of gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships (something that will be more obvious through the civil partnership) then this hang-up on marriage will become more firmly the preserve of the church, rather than the state, and it’s likely that we can move to a scheme that works for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

  7. Guys, this civil partnership ceremony, its going to be a pretty bizarre affair, what with us all wearing hats, DM boots, and celine and beth wearing matching dresses, and handbags!

  8. I like the non-marriage civil partnership, and I would like it to be open to heterosexual couples. I know marriage, at least from a western point of view, didn’t actually start out as a religious thing, but over the last two thousand years it has become too associated with religion and gender inequality, and personal limitations. I think there are a lot of heterosexual couples who would like to have a legal commitment, but don’t want to be part of something called ‘marriage’ when ‘religious’ people are still calling on the law to recognise its ‘sanctity’. I was one of those people. I only got married when legal reasons forced me to. If I could get my legal relationship converted to a civil one I would.

    May seem strange and nitpicking, but I don’t want my relationship defined by the religious, and unfortunately the modern legal marriage still is. I think they should abolish marriage as a legal definition and replace it with ‘civil partnership’ open to heterosexual and homosexual couples. People who feel a religious need to be ‘married’ can do so with their religious institution but it is a private thing not offering any greater or lesser legal recognition

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