Originally published at Sarah Brown's Blog. You can comment here or there.
The marriage equality consultation closes this week. I have waited until this week to submit my response in order to respond from a position of being aware of issues that have arisen as a result of public debate around the consultation.
However, the consultation closes in 3 days. The homophobes have been out in force and have, as I understand it, swamped the process with negative responses suggesting that the existing discriminatory situation should remain. Many of these objections are based on the idea that marriage is “owned” by churches. This is, of course, nonsense. Marriage predates any currently practiced religion as a concept and civil marriages have outnumbered religious marriages in this country for some time.
Indeed, while a push by certain churches to claim ownership of marriage as a religious, and not civil institution, might be intellectually respectable (even if I don’t for one second agree with it), it is deeply unfortunate that this push comes after years of marriage quite clearly being a civil institution for most people entering into it, and at a time where the government is consulting on extending civil marriage to same sex couples. It’s deeply unfortunate because the genuine concern of these churches ends up looking really, really homophobic, which I expect they’re mortified about.
Finally, the government has made it quite clear that they are not proposing to allow religious same sex marriage (this is something I disagree with, but I understand their need to propose what will get through both houses of Parliament), and that the consultation is about how same sex marriage will now be introduced, and not if it will. This means that the thousands of astroturfed responses suggesting it shouldn’t be allowed at all are basically trolling.
This is why it’s really important to get some sensible responses to the consultation from people who are in a position of being able to take advantage of LGBT-friendly reform to marriage and gender recognition law:
- If you are gay, lesbian or bisexual, and might one day want to benefit from state recognition of your relationship, this consultation is about you.
- If you might ever be a participant in the gender recognition process (either you’re trans, or you might one day be in a relationship with someone who is), this consultation is about you.
- If you are married and feel that it’s a patriarchal institution which you disagree with, but you need to be able to operate a joint account with your partner in an uncomplicated way and would rather have a civil partnership, this consultation is about you.
Please answer it. Do it now, or do it tomorrow or the day after, but don’t wait any longer than that because it will be too late. You can do it online – it takes five minutes. Please just do it.
Anyway, here are my answers. Please feel free to use them as a template
Question 1. Do you agree or disagree that all couples, regardless of their gender, should be able to have a civil marriage ceremony?
Question 2. Please explain the reasons for your answer, limiting your response to 1,225 characters (approx 200 words):
There is a discrimination issue that needs to be addressed: the current situation where marriage exists for opposite sex couples and civil partnership exists for same sex couples represents segregation in society along sexual orientation grounds. This can make non heterosexual people feel like “second class citizens”.
Those who do not identify as either male or female are not served by either institution and must misrepresent themselves to gain access to one of them at present.
I have been through the GRA dissolution/conversion to civil partnership process. I regard my marriage as having been taken from me under duress and feel a great injustice has been done to myself, my wife and those like us. This must not be allowed to continue.
Question 3. If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would you wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
Question 4. If you represent a group of individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual would those you represent wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?
Question 5. The government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?
Disagree – religious marriage should be opened up to same-sex couples
Question 6. Do you agree or disagree with keeping the option of civil partnerships once civil marriage is made available to same-sex couples?
Question 7. If you identify as being lesbian, gay or bisexual and were considering making a legal commitment to your partner, would you prefer to have a civil partnership or a civil marriage?
Question 8. The government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples because we have been unable to identify a need for this. However, we appreciate that there are a number of views on this issue.
Disagree – civil partnerships should be opened up to opposite-sex couples
Question 9. If you are in a civil partnership would you wish to take advantage of this policy and convert your civil partnership into a marriage?
Question 10. We would not propose introducing a time limit on the ability to convert a civil partnership into a marriage.
Agree – there shouldn’t be a time limit
Question 11. Do you think there should be an option to have a civil ceremony on conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage?
Yes, there should be an option
Question 12. If you are a married transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while obtaining a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
Question 13. If you are the spouse of a transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage whilst your spouse obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate?
Question 14. Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issues outlined above? If so, please provide details in the space below, limiting your response to 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).
Religious same sex marriage should be available to those organisations which want it. Equalities legislation should not be used to force unwilling organisations to conduct religious same sex marriage.
Because marriage equality and the existence of same sex civil unions varies hugely internationally, the recognition of relationships originating outside the UK should be done in as flexible a way as possible. Same sex couples coming to the UK from countries where no same sex union recognition exists at all should be allowed to be regarded as married for immigration purposes if that is the defacto nature of their relationship.
Question 15. Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals that we have not accounted for in the impact assessment? If so, please provide details in the space below, limiting your response to 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).
Those of us who underwent the GRA dissolution process have already had to pay to have our existing marriages dissolved and to be re-registered as civil partners. We should not have to pay again to put this injustice right.
Some who have undergone dissolution under the GRA, and are now civil partners, may have had pension contributions adversely affected. These should be reinstated as if the marriage was continuous.
Question 16. Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation? If so, please provide details in the space below, limiting your response to 1,225 characters (approx 200 words).
Civil partnerships should be made available regardless of gender. This is both for equality reasons, and to prevent coercive dissolution of civil partnerships where one or both partners are transsexual and wish to undergo gender recognition.
The marriages confiscated under the GRA, and converted into civil partnerships, should be allowed to be reinstated. This is correcting an injustice and the reinstatement should be effective from the date of the original marriage. Marriage certificates should be reissued in either the current names and genders of the partners, or the former ones (provide the option). If this is not done, those who undergo gender recognition in future will have their marriages recognised, but those of us who have already undergone it won’t, creating a “lost decade”.
If birth certificates can be reissued, so can marriage certificates. This is hugely important to those of us who want our marriages back.
The GRA dissolution process is bureaucratic and works very poorly. Conversion between civil partnerships and marriage should be made simple. It should be as easy as applying for a passport.
Those in marriages should be allowed to convert to a civil partnership if they wish.