By next spring we expect to see the first same-sex marriage ceremonies in Britain. Bravo! But amid the popping of champagne corks we should remember that the new legislation falls short of equal marriage and the legal ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships remains in force.
Although the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act is a welcome and important advance, it is not full equality. Same-sex marriages are legalised under a new law that is separate and different from the Marriage Act 1949. Separate and different are not equal.
The campaign for true equal marriage continues. The Peter Tatchell Foundation and the Equal Love campaign will seek to rectify the shortcomings in a subsequent bill; probably when the government next year undertakes its promised review of the issue of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.
The six aspects of discrimination in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act that we will be seeking to overturn are:
Pension inheritance rights are fewer on death of a same-sex marriage spouse, compared to the legal rights of an opposite-sex marriage partner. A es that it wants to. The requirements and costs of registering premises for the conduct surviving same-sex spouse is not entitled to receive the full value of their deceased partner’s pension. Employers are only required by law to pay same-sex survivor’s pensions based on contributions made since 2005; although in practice many are likely to pay out from 1988 onwards. This means that pension contributions made many years before 2005/1988 are discounted and will not be received by the surviving same-sex marriage partner.
There is no restoration of the marriages of trans people that were annulled as a precondition for them securing a gender recognition certificate. Moreover, the spouse of a transgender person must consent to the marriage continuing after the issue of a gender recognition certificate. This right of spousal veto is open to abuse.
Rightly or wrongly, the existing grounds for the annulment of a marriage – non-consummation and adultery – do not apply in the case of same-sex marriages. This means they do not embody the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex marriages.
The Church of England and the Church in Wales are explicitly banned from performing religious same-sex marriages, even if they decide they want to.
The special requirements and costs of registering premises for the conduct of religious same-sex marriages are harsher than for opposite-sex marriages in religious premises. In the case of shared premises, all other sharing faith organisations have to give their permission for the conduct of marriages involving same-sex couples. In effect, they have a veto over religious bodies that wish to marry lesbian and gay people.
The legislation does not repeal the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Straight couples continue to be banned from having a civil partnership, even though the government’s own public consultation on equal marriage found that 61% of respondents supported the right of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership if they desire one. Only 24% disagreed.
The overwhelming vote for same-sex marriage in both the Commons and the Lords was a defeat for homophobic discrimination and a victory for love and marriage. After a 21-year-long campaign, we have now secured marriage rights for all; albeit not quite marriage equality.
Ending the ban on same-sex couples marrying overturned the last major legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Britain. It is of huge symbolic importance; signalling that same-sex love now has state-sanctioned recognition and acceptance. But it is still not quite equality. That’s why we need to keep pushing to ensure that both civil marriage and civil partnership law are truly equal for everyone, LGBT and straight. Over to you Dave and Nick.
Author: Peter Tatchell – Director of The Peter Tatchell Foundation
Powered by Facebook Comments