Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Equal Civil Marriage

It’s been quite a journey – but today as this post goes up – I am announcing in my keynote speech to Liberal Democrat conference that in March, this Government will begin a formal consultation on equal civil marriage for same-sex couples.

This would allow us to make any legislative changes before the end of this Parliament.

We will be working closely with all those who have an interest in the area to understand their views ahead of the formal consultation.

The consultation will only cover civil marriage for same sex couples – not religious marriage.

Sat 17 September 2011
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Comments

  1. Marcus says:

    What about civil partnerships for opposite sex couples?

  2. George says:

    A good day for equality – well done

  3. Edward says:

    How about equality in your vicous and vindictive cuts. But if this allows you to sleep at night, then well done from me too.

  4. Peter says:

    Just to say I am saddened and disappointed almost beyond words, that this or any government should be going down the way of same gender marriages. That is a contradiction in terms, for marriage is between a man and a woman, “forsaking all other.” This government and country will rue the day that they should encourage immorality. True marriage should be encouraged. Why o Why do we reject at every turn, traditional, Christian and orthodox beliefs and practices? To turn away from these leads to the braekdown of society.

  5. Craig says:

    I agree with the legislation which brought in civil partnerships in 2005 and a member of my family was one of the first to take advantage of it with her partner.

    I have liberal views on the way people should be able to live their lives. But I also feel strongly about maintaining some of the rights and traditions of the Church and object to the encroachment of politicians into matters which should and have always been at the digression of religious groups.

    Civil partnerships are seen as legal acts and so it is right that parliament should legislate for them, but marriage (even the word “marriage”) is creeping into territory which does not belong to politicians.

  6. MarkW says:

    A good day for LGBT equality … perhaps the beginning of the end of this inequality. While we will have to wait for the proposed detail just prior to the “consultation”, I hope that when a Bill goes to Parliament, party politics will not come into it. Good to see that Lynne emaphasises CIVIL marriage. That should quieten down some of the religious obector who, I suspect, will be making a lot of noise in the weeks and month ahead. Hopedfully, the media will take not and not call it “gay marriage”, but something like “civil marriage equality”. I do suspect that the American Christain Taliban will be making a lot of noise and trying to interfere, and pour cash into the anti-campaigns! But good luck and thanks …

  7. Nick says:

    I cannot promise many thing’s, but this I can… One day we will all have to stand in front of our heavenly father, and give an account for our lives and the decisions we made and if we honoured God and his law and if we truly repented of our sins. Gay marriage is an abomination to a Holy God and I trust and pray you will see that.

  8. Harriet Harms Man says:

    Best comment is from Marcus. I second his question.

  9. Michael says:

    This is not a case of civil rights.

    All African-American leaders said comparing demands for gay marriage to civil rights is inappropriate.

    Despite supporting of granting equality in jobs, housing, etc. millions of Americans do not agree in equating gay lifestyles with marriage. Marriage means to them not only a group of people living together but partners who will reproduce themselves in their children and raise them with more than a lop-sided view of only male or female partners.

    It is a stubborn demand by heterophobes to obfuscate the worldwide—and long tradition—of the acceptance of the meaning of marriage.

    To quote Quentin Crisp, the British author:
    “The … problem that confronts homosexuals is that they set out to win the love of a “real” man. If they succeed, they fail. A man who “goes with” other men is not what they would call a real man. The conundrum is incapable of resolution, but that does not make homosexuals give it up.”

  10. I am utterly in favour of total equality in both heterosexual and homosexual civil marriage. Civil partnerships have merely been a stepping stone, albeit a necessary one. I think this is a smart move by the current government.
    I would formally like to offer my opinion and presence, if required, in the planned consultations due to take place next year. I believe my view as a young, educated and tolerant citizen with clear opinions and good social ethics is representative of a lot of other people who also share an indecision of political ideology and patronage.

  11. Tom says:

    A quick note to those commenters above who want to refuse me the right to marry the person I love: marriage does not belong to the Christian church. It predates it, it has existed alongside it in many non-Christian cultures for centuries, and I expect it will outlive it.

    If you wish to have a private ritual to which only those approved by the church may gain entry, by all means do so. But don’t expect the state to grant it special privileges.

  12. Alex Brett says:

    Fantastic news. I hope it will be possible to have truly gender-neutral language, rather than relying on binary genders!

  13. Sparky says:

    What happened to the consultation that was supposed to start in Summer this year?

    And the delayed consultation in Autumn this year?

    And now it’s being moved to MARCH next year? I wonder, how many times you will delay this and try to sell it to us as a new idea each time for extra credit. More pretty speeches without you having to do anything – typical of you.

    What are you actually consulting on? How do you have to consult on whether bigotry is a bad thing or not?

    Keep supporting the homophobes Lyn, we know you will. The more homophobia you cover for, the mkore I deeply regret voting for your party.

  14. Andrew says:

    I’m saddened that you’re excluding religious marriage from the consultation.

    There are several religious groups who have made it clear that they want to be able to hold same-sex marriages – why should they be prevented from doing so just because of the attitudes of some other religions?

  15. Elle says:

    For someone who is gay themselves I am all for Lynee, she’s stepping up for soemthing that needs to be changed. I believe that all people are equal and as for ‘god’ if he didn’t like gay/lesbians/bisexuals he would have not put them on this earth. I had my first ‘lesbian crush’ seven years ago and I still have these feelings now.

    What is so different between a woman and woman or man and man being together as it is for a woman and man to be together. If people are happy then why ruin it? For those people who do should be ashamed of themselves.

  16. Jonathan says:

    This is a sham as far as equality goes. I don’t know how you have the nerve to call it “equal marriage” when it discriminates against all gay people by not allowing ceremonies in those churches who have told the government that they want to be able to perform weddings for same-sex couples, and to top it all — you’ve discriminated against every straight couple by not allowing them access to Civil Partnerships — good job, could you have possible made it any more discriminatory. You’ve clearly been lent on, big time, and it’s a sorry state of affairs that you don’t feel empowered to stand up for what is right. You’d better have a big re-think, rapido, because if you think this will win votes for LibDems or the Tories — THINK AGAIN. Everyone will see the discriminatory presence of the Tories and they will be severely punished at the next election. If you get in to bed with the far-right of the Tory party by allowing them to use you as a human shield for them, you’ll lose any right to call yourselves progressive. This isn’t progressive, because by doing this, it’ll be another 5-10 years before we can bring this to parliament again and get “FULL” equality – and people will remember what you did here – you sold us all out. Your own party wanted “FULL” equality, they voted at the last conference for it — and I was just warming to the LibDems — NO MORE.

  17. Renee Bird says:

    I am incredibly disappointed that your review will not be including universal civil partnerships. It has always been ludicrous – not to mention insulting – that there is a ‘special law’ for gay unions, and that you will not extend civil partnerships to heterosexuals. If civil partnerships were for an ethnic minority there would be outrage. I know of many couples – gay and straight – who do not wish to marry (they do not want a ‘husband’ or a ‘wife’ or to be a ‘Mrs anybody’) and it seems to me that offering universal civil partnerships gives these couples a chance to raise their families within the protection of a state-recognised union. Excluding straight couples from this is discriminatory. I would like you to explain why the Coalition is pushing through marriage for gay people when what many people want is civil partnerships – free from the stigmatism of sexuality – to be available for all. Let the churches offer marriage, and let the state offer civil partnerships.

  18. Craig says:

    Following my comment above I also have a question about if these ‘marriages’ are valid abroad or even in the overseas territories? Because if there is no universal foreign recognition of their validity then there is no point – just like there would be no point in issuing a passport if nobody recognised it.

    For example if you wanted to apply for a visa in Australia would it be recognised that one of the ‘married’ pair was a spouse thus gaining entry to the country with their partner?

    It might seem a little obscure but I’m interested to know what the government would do to gain international recognition for the new ‘marriages’ if anything?

  19. Mags says:

    There’s a contradiction here, somewhere. God, apparently, won’t like us treating everyone the same, but I thought all things were supposed to have been created equally? Equality, tolerance, love for your fellow human being – it really does seem to be thrown out of the window when it comes to same sex marriage.

    Live and let live. Religious faith and viewpoint should not bar anyone from living the life that others just take for granted. If gay people want to be married what harm does it do anyone else? To all those spouting god and faith and religion: if you honestly believe that they’ll go to hell for it, then let them go to hell for it. It’s highly unlikely that you care either way.

    At one time you couldn’t marry if you were from a different class or a different race. We seem to have overcome those particular discriminations. If religion is going to bar and block decent people from marrying then religion should be barred and blocked from decent people’s lives.

    Wake up and see what’s really important. People have a right to live their lives how they choose. People don’t have the right to tell them they can’t.

    Rant over.

  20. GeaVox says:

    Peter, Nick, Michael Sorry, but…

    … is this the same god as “the god of love” that won’t let newborn babies into “his heaven” because they have some “original sin”? (BABIES? REALLY???)

    … that once locked wives in indissoluble, “holy matrimony” even if they and their children were regularly raped and beaten half to death? (or even TO death!)

    … in whose name your Christian ancestors had people racked, hung, drawn, quartered, drowned, burnt at the stake, dismembered, disembowelled, had their eyes put out, their tongues ripped off and hundreds of other, grisly atrocities?

    … that sanctioned colonialism, slaver and still condones the pitiless, brutal exploitation of people in “developing nations”?

    … “he” won’t recognise my partner and my “marriage”??? ***really???***

    You DO surprise me!

    But, then, to be fair, we couldn’t possibly recognise anything “divine” in that picture, or in a “god” that picks and chooses “love” yet claims to “be” love.

    FYI: the Civil Partnership-Religious Marriage axis Apartheid is the only real elephant left in in the room!

    So, …don’t look now, but the elephant is leaving!

  21. Gem says:

    Thank you for all your work on this matter, Lynne. Yes, there is much more to do in terms of opening up religious marriage for gay couples and hopefully, eventually, opening up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, thus removing legal discrimination. Britain is still a world leader on this matter, and I’m grateful for your championship.

    Those who are asking for more: I understand your position, I truly do. But look at what other countries are facing. In many African countries being gay is still legally punishable by death. The US offered equal rights to gay couples and then removed it again as soon as possible. We can do more, but we can also be grateful for what we have.

    Those who believe that gay is a sin: there’s a simple answer. Believe that if you must (although how is this less of a sin than the Bible-mandated sins of planting different crops next to one another, for example?), and don’t sleep with someone of the same sex. That does not give you the right to blockade the rights of others.

  22. Rayshelon says:

    A procvoaitve insight! Just what we need!

  23. GeaVox says:

    Apologies, there is another elephant in the room: the denial of civil partnership to opposite-sex couples.

    Basically Kreesteeyayns ain’t Kreesteeyayns unless and until they oppress somebody and if that is other Kreesteeyayns, then so much the better!

  24. David says:

    There seems to be an awful lot of intolerance being shown towards those people who disagree with the coalitions proposals.If people disagree with the proposals are they to be branded as homophobic? Doesn’t this amount to the suppression of free speech? Why are those who are apparently so intolerant of the churches views on these matters so anxious to get married in church?

  25. Gem says:

    David,

    The coalition’s proposals do not allow religious marriage. LGBTQ couples will still be discriminated against in that respect, and they would not be allowed to marry in a church even if these proposals are passed. These proposals will allow LGBTQ couples equal rights to civil marriage. Individual churches have always been able to have the final say on who they choose to marry; some allow divorcees, some don’t, some aren’t happy marrying couples who aren’t regular church-goers. That is their right and that will not change. I would also point out that some churches are happy to marry LGBTQ couples, and are unable to do so under these regulations. It goes both ways.

    The opposition to these proposals, as far as I can discern, relates entirely to the word “marriage” being extended to LGBTQ couples, and a belief that it is a word owned entirely by the church. Since these marriages would be civil marriages only, it changes nothing for religious institutions.

  26. GeaVox says:

    @David Do you only ever campaign or fight for what YOU want?
    Would that not be unbelievably, self-centred and self-serving?

    First of all, “marriage” is not just in church, the ban on marriage extends to civil marriage, in a Registry Office. My partner and I were not given a choice, we could only have the cut-down version of marriage, we were shunted to the “civil marriage” queue, just as black people once were shunted to the back of the bus, in the US and South Africa.

    Did we fight for the rights of the Jews, Black People, Women, people with Disabilities, Older people and people of different Faiths? Yes, we did.

    Now we are fighting an injustice, a form of Apartheid that is not tolerable in the modern Britain we all are building for our children to grow up truly free from fear, oppression, discrimination and hate.

    We are standing up against a millennial history of homophobia and legalised murder and homophobes need very little comfort indeed to feel vindicated in their hate.

    The prohibition on gay marriage for LGBT couples and Civil Partnership for heterosexual couples is a form of APARTHEID and we are standing up for the right of those who DO have a faith to have their unions recognised in the same way those of their heterosexual ones are.

    Personally I am an Atheist and proud of it, but what I believe is of no consequence when it comes to the rights of those to whom Faith is pivotal to their lives.

    When in the US the hateful segregation laws, and South Africa Apartheid were abolished, were those who opposed the abolition not racists? I think you’ll find they were.

    If you expect your civil rights to be respected and defended, you need consider that the Middle Ages are long over. You and those who resemble you are not the only one entitled to rights and privileges, while “others” must do with some lesser state of serfdom, second class citizen.

    Our taxation pays for your services too, we are fully paid-up members of Society and so should not be treated with any less respect.

    Forget about the War on Terror: welcome to the War on HATE!

  27. GeaVox says:

    Corrigenda – 6th paragraph.
    “In the same way as those of their heterosexual counterparts are”
    3rd last paragraph “”serfdom, second class citizenship”

  28. GeaVox says:

    @Gem Yes, you have a good point there, many noted with chagrin the ‘get-out’ clause that still accords privileges to Churches and other religious institutions to actively discriminate against people in a way no-one else is allowed to.

    I think it is high time religions relinquished the power they wield in the name of their Imaginary Friends.

    If their Gods want to take-up issue with LGBTQ marriage, let them incarnate and come to tell us so, with a side order of a few portents, as credentials to verify their legitimacy.

    I would be content with small miracles, like David Cameron and Nick Clegg actually LISTENING to people! LOL!

    :D.

  29. Jonathan says:

    “There seems to be an awful lot of intolerance being shown towards those people who disagree with the coalitions proposals.If people disagree with the proposals are they to be branded as homophobic?”

    What, like someone who doesn’t agree with black people having the same rights being called a racist?

    “Doesn’t this amount to the suppression of free speech?”

    Clearly it doesn’t, because as long as they aren’t inspiring homophobia in people then they have the right to speak — just as you are doing. I call a bigot a bigot. I call a racist a racist, and I call a homophobe a homophobe when their only goal is to lesson the status and dignity of lesbian and gay people by denying an equal role without a good reason. Religion isn’t any sort of good reason, as we’ve seen.

    John Sentamu said “I live in a liberal democracy and I want equality for everybody. I cannot say the Quakers shouldn’t do it.” talking about Civil Partnerships in religious venues, yet he’s saying that although the Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Jews and Reform Jews all believe equal marriage is ok with them, he wants to stop them. What a hypocrite.

  30. Mark says:

    The major problem with marriage equality for same-sex couples is the work “marriage” itself. Many seem to forget, especially among the clerics, that there is civil marriage and religious marriage. Religion is not the owner of “marriage”. If one looks back to ancient history, there was no such thing as marriage between a man and a woman – while our copies of the Bible certainly do talk about husbands and wives and marriage, these are contemporary translations that go back almost 1,000 year – long after the Bible was written. Back in Biblical days, what is now seen a “marriage” was in fact little more that servitude for the woman who was little more than a “slave” used for chores and for procreation.

    If anything, marriage actually came from the Pagans. But Christianity has ‘highjacked’ the word.

    As long ago as in the 17th century, John Selden, a Member of Parliament, scholar of our ancient laws and constitution and jurist, said “Marriage is nothing but a civil contract.”

    These days, a marriage solomised in a place of worship includes not only the religious ceremony but also the civil registration, for which the priest receives an extra fee as the civil registrar. I can member the days when Catholics and members of the “free churches” (Methodists, Baptists etc) had to register their civil marriages in a Resgister Office, as well as their religious ceremony. This was not the case for members of the Anglican Church (the established church of this country.

    At the end of the day, it is nothing to do with religious groups if the Goverment wants to bring-in marriage equality for same sex-couples. Religion has to make up its mind totally voluntarily if is want to accept and perform same-sex marriages.

    I do not advocate any Bill or Act forcing religious organisations into solomising same-sex marriages. But I do advocate those religions who want to being able to do so within the Bill and Act.

    As for opening up Civil Partnerships for opposite sex couples, I would suggest that this might be an option, but with the total repeal of the Civil Marriage Act. This would mean that both opposite and same-sex couples would have to register their partnerships with a civil registrar and then, if they wanted a religious ceremony, go to a church. This has worked well in a number of couries for centuries – countries like France.

    But even this, which effective would give religion the “sole rights” to Marriage (and it appears that they already think this), would probably brig howls of protests from clerics who would then not be able to get their fee for the cilvil part of the marriage ceremony. Religion can’t “have its cake and eat it”.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I am a gay man who is also religious (Anglican). However, as a pensioner, I have no interest if getting married the the proposals get through the legislative process. But in the 21st century when equality is the “norm”, there has to be marriage or partnership equality. The main problem with Civil Partnerships at present is that despite Civil Partnerships give all the benefits of Civil Marriage (and requiring the same responsibilites) it is not full equality as the name is different.

    So please, Lynne Featherstone, include the word “Civil” in the title of of any Bill … and get the Coalition Government to alsobuse the word when talking about the matter!

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