Saturday, August 28, 2010

Marriage equality in the UK

10 countries in the world now have marriage equality (Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Portugal and now Argentina) as well as in several US States - Massachussets, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington DC and the state of Mexico City.

A number of other countries are in the process of preparing legislation to introduce equal marriage (Luxembourg, Slovenia and Finland to date with the political left in France supporting equal marriage - Socialists, Communists and Greens).

The UK introduced Civil Partnerships for same sex partners in 2005 with parity to same sex couples in all areas and this was reinforced with the passing of the Goods and Services regulations in 2006 which covered equal access to adoption and more recenntly the removal of 'need for a father' for IVF treatments complete the provision of equality in partnership and family law.

But the journey to equality never reaches its end and equality always needs to advance. In several areas the current law creates difficulties. There is a ban on a religious ceremony where the partners wish for it and the religous body wants to offer it. There is a ban on entering a marriage for those who wish for it - whether from their faith psrspective or because that's what they want. Gay relationships become apostrophised - whereas opposite sex couples marry, same sex couples "marry"; a woman has a husband, a man has a "husband". The apostrophe indicates it isn't a real thing and the same sex relationship is pointed up as being an unreal thing and definitely not the same in worth and dignity of an opposite sex coupling.

The ban on marriage is a modern, less in your face, but real nonetheless version of section 28. Same sex couples are inferior and therefore not entitled to equality of treatment and regard with opposite sex couples.

There are other problems. Those who have entered into marriage in other countries are unable to bring their relationship effortlessly into the UK - something heterosexual marrieds never have to worry about; when someone seeks Gender Recognition and they are married they are forced to end their marriage even if they wish to stay married.

So I believe only equality will do. This is not about choices - you may not wish to marry (whether you are gay or straight); you may not even believe in marriage - that still does not justify treating one group of people as less equal than others.

The question is a live one at the present time because of the number of countries that have or are in the process of adopting equal laws for marriage and because the debate is now engaged within UK's political parties. The LGBT groups of the three main parties support equality; all 5 leadership candidates have supported equality and a resolution on thew matter is to be debated at the Lib Dem Conference.

Therefore the time is now ripe for the UK political class to take note and move forwards inthe direction of creating more equality.

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