commentpoliticsnewslgbt

looks like equality...

...but it still isn't. Today people are rightly celebrating that gay couples can now get married in the UK. But while this is another huge step towards equality, I'm frustrated that we're still not quite there yet.

Now we have three pieces of major legislation on marriage:

  • The Marriage Act 1949, under which mixed-gender couples can get married, in either churches or non-religious venues
  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004, under which same-gender couples can form a civil partnership in non-religious venues unless already married
  • The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which came into force today, under which same-gender couples can get married in venues other than churches, unless already married or in a civil partnership

It feels slightly pedantic to point it out, but this increasingly complex tangle of laws still doesn't provide equality for everyone:

  • A christian heterosexual couple can get married in their church but a christian gay couple are not allowed, even if they want to and the church wants them to!
  • A gay couple can form a civil partnership but a mixed-gender couple are not allowed to
  • Both marriages and civil partnerships are exlicitly only for couples who have sex, and failure to have sex is considered grounds for dissolving the relationship; those in non-sexual relationships are not allowed the benefits of a legally recognised relationship

I can't see a good reason for any of these restrictions.

In addition, there's confusion around civil partnerships - those of us in one can't call ourselves married, unless we divorce each other first, although we are told this might change soon, but only in England & Wales, and never in Scotland where the equivalent Act didn't make any provision for it.

And there's a pernicious new restriction in the new Act which means that from now on, transgendered people will need written consent from their spouse to obtain their Gender Recognition Certificate, which consent their spouse may withhold for no reason (or for a malicious reason such as to make their spouse's gender transition even more difficult, or to use it as leverage against them in divorce or financial or other family matters). This new rule is bizarre because now that we have same-sex marriage, when someone transitions there will be no change in status for the spouse, so why should consent be required? Unfortunately the trans community has virtually no lobbying voice.

The problem I forsee is, the closer we get to equality, the harder it will be to be to press for change, because fewer and fewer people will feel strongly enough to help. Stonewall, the only strong lobby group for lesbian and gay people (with occasional lip service to bisexuals) never supported gay marriage. Does anybody care enough to campaign to remove the final restrictions, and achieve genuine marriage equality in the UK?