I am going to go against the flow here, and say why I think that this bill is a terrible idea.
Before 2003, homosexual couples had very few rights. They could not inherit, they coud not be next of kin, and they could not gain rights over each other’s children. This was, in my opinion, quite wrong, and passing the Civil Partnership act allowed them to have:
“the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits, and also the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children, as well as responsibility for reasonable maintenance of one’s partner and their children, tenancy rights, full life insurance recognition, next of kin rights in hospitals, and others.”
Therefore, when you say that “As it stands just now we can only have civil partnerships, which do not allow us the same legal, tax, fertility, family or even pension rights or schemes as heterosexual married couples.” it is simply not true. You can also read the act online, which spells out what I have said quite clearly. If you know someone who did not receive their partner’s pension rights, despite being in a civil partnership, then that is illegal and they should have taken their employer to tribunal.
After Civil Partnership, there were only a few diffrences between Marriage and Civil Partnership.
1. A peer or someone with a title (eg Duke) would pass the corresponding title onto their husband or wife (ie the wife of a Duke would become a Duchess). However, the Civil Partner of a Duke would not receive a title.
2. Because Civil Partnership was a legal institution, and not a religious one, religious readings were not permitted within the ceremony. Instead, religious LGBT couples had to be legally married, and then have a seperate religious ceremony (which took exactly the same form as the usual relilgious marriage ceremony) afterwards, as long as the church hosting the ceremony agreed. This was a bit of a pain in that it required extra paperwork, but it was still possible to do it. Most of the major churches (apart from the Catholic church) said that LGBT wedding ceremonies could be performed at the discretion of the individual minister. In fact, I was invited to a religious LGBT wedding blessing back in 2004. I didn’t end up going in the end because I had a family reunion to attend, but I say this just to point out that religious LGBT ceremonies have been happening for years.
3. Civil Partnership and Marriage had two different names.
In response to criticism from religious LGBT couples who wanted religious readings in the actual legal part of the ceremony, in 2004 then the act was amended to allow religious readings during the ceremony. I honestly do not know if, at this point, it became possible for couples to sign the legal marriage register during their church marriage service. If so, this would leave only point 1 and 3 above which differentiates civil partnership from marriage.
So, when you say that “The bill means not only can we marry in churches that opt in”, that isn’t true either. LGBT couples have been able to marry within churches which opt in for years. Also, when you say that “…but that non religious same sex couples such as my partner and I can marry the same way” that isn’t true either… heterosexual couples would have been able to have civil partnerships from next year anyway, under a separate bill.
…. so then… what does this new bill actually mean in practise?
1. It means that LGBT people can now pass their titles onto their partners. Fair enough… but hardly something which affects a lot of people. And it could have been solved in another act.
2. Civil partnership was not called “marriage”. It is now. Well, potato potato. I’m no getting into this argument because the logic is weak either way.
3. Religious institutions which refuse to marry LGBT couples can now be sued, and religious officiants will face legal sanctions for refusing to marry them. Cameron says that he will protect religious institutions, but in fact he cannot do this, because we are subject to EU regulations to do with equality under law for LGBT couples. So it’s only a matter of time before someone takes a test case to the EU, and the EU rules that religious institutions cannot discriminate. What then? We know what then. When the rules regarding LGBT adoption changed a few years ago, and Catholic orphanages were told that they could not discriminate, they shut down all the Catholic orphanages. So when we are told that religious institutions must marry LGBTs, they will simply stop marrying people at all. Instead, they will ask people to get civilly married, and then they will have a religious blessing service afterwards (at the discretion of the minister). Which is a huge faff, a load of paperwork, a load of trouble for everyone involved AND it means that religious LGBTs will suffer. At the moment, the Church of England leaves the option of having a church ceremony down to the individual minister. What do you think will happen once this is declared illegal?
I also object to the heavy handed way in which religion is controlled by the state in the UK. As we lack the religious freedom laws of the US, we find ourselves constantly having to jump through hoops. For example, when I wanted a marriage license, I had to answer a whole series of questions about my beliefs and those of my partner. I would not have had to do this if I wanted a civil ceremony and, quite frankly, I don’t thnk that my religious beliefs are any of the state’s business. But I digress.
… so… if this is what the act does (ie not much, and certainly not much which, in my eyes, is positive) then why pass it?
This act has been forced through because it sounds, on the surface, to be happy clappy nicey nicey. Who doesn’t believe in equallity? Whoever could object to something like this? It’s a populist law passed by a very unpopular government who have done nothing but a disservice to the people of this country since they showed up. Disability rights? Gone. Public sector workers? Screw them. This law is a way of getting people on side… a cheap way of shoving them a cookie after burning their house down. It has also been passed with no consultation and no dscussion. Could all of the aims of LGBT campaigners have been achieved by utlising existing legislation? Can we adequately protect religious institutions? None of this has been answered. Anyone who objects to the law is told they’re a bigot, and that’s simply not the case. I supported civil partnerships, and equal rights for LGBT couples wanting to adopt. But I don’t support this, and I am concerned that nobody is even examining the legislation properly, thinking of the consequences, or considering what the motivations of the government truly are.
That is all.