This Thursday sees the end of the Government’s consultation on equal civil marriage. It seems bizarre that in the 21st Century UK we still have a marriage system where a part of society is banned from getting married. Just by nature of sexual orientation, LGBT couples are unable to enjoy the same ceremony as heterosexual couples. On the other hand, heterosexual couples are not permitted to have a civil partnership.
The proposals in the government’s consultation are a good step forward, but don’t go far enough. The proposals specifically include an opt-out for religious bodies. I’m not religious, but I can see that there will be some same-sex couples belonging to a religion who would like to hold their wedding in a place of worship, blessed and officiated by a member of the clergy, joined by all their friends. As religious bodies carry out marriages on behalf of the state, essentially a secular function, they should also be expected to carry out marriages of same-sex couples.
Religious bodies like the Church of England have gone into overdrive, even going so far as to claim that gay couples getting married would somehow undermine marriage. Such a position, defending the current marriage apartheid, comes from hate and bigotry, and should be resisted.
However, the Government’s consultation questionnaire is pretty good, and does include questions covering all aspects of the equal marriage debate, and also allows you to make a submission of up to about 200 words in support of your response.
You can submit your response to the consultation online at the Home Office’s equal civil marriage consultation page.
For more information, you can go to Peter Tatchell’s Equal Love page.
Here’s a copy of my submission’s supporting comment:
As a supporter of equal rights for everyone, I believe that it is only fair and reasonable for all people, irrespective of gender, should expect and enjoy the same rights to:
– civil marriage (for both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships);
– civil partnership (for both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships);
– religious same-sex marriage, carried out in a place of worship.
Civil and religious marriages, and civil partnerships, should be open and available to all couples, through a law that is blind to the sexual orientation of couples, whilst respecting them at the same time.
As marriage is a state secular mechanism, it should also be established that any organisation carrying out marriages on behalf of the state, including religious ones, should carry out same-sex marriages. Whilst I understand that this may be problematic in terms of the belief systems of some religions, religious organisations should be made to allow those of their clergy who want to perform same-sex marriages to do so, and on their premises or place of worship.
There is no rational or just argument against establishing a modern system of marriage which reflects society and treats every citizen fairly.