Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

Equal Marriage – beware opponents bearing gifts
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Equal Marriage – beware opponents bearing gifts

Often when I am giving a speech or attending an event, a young man or woman will sidle up to me and thank me shyly for having got equal marriage legislation put before Parliament, telling me just how much it means to him or her. The stories of how much it matters to them, their loved ones and their families often makes me cry.

The symbolism of marriage for them is so important – and changing the rules to let people of the same gender who love each other get married is also an important way of showing that as a society we wish to treat people equally, regardless of their sexuality.

That is why this is so important. Equal marriage is totemic in its meaning and in its reality. It’s no wonder that the polls this weekend show people backing same-sex marriage by nearly 2-to-1.

With the legislation coming back to Parliament this coming week, I’ve been reading through some of the many amendments which will be debated. Many of them are fundamentally from those who disagree with same sex marriage and I trust and hope they will fail.

However, there are two that I would normally not hesitate to support. I am in favour of humanist weddings and opposite-sex Civil Partnerships. However, in the case of the opposite sex Civil Partnership proposals it’s a matter of beware opponents bearing gifts – for the people pushing this change are not those with records of supporting equality and marriage rules that accommodate a diversity of couples.

No, instead the proposals are coming from the likes of Tim Loughton and others who are avowed and determined opponents of equal marriage.

Have Tim and his colleagues suddenly become converts to the cause of equality? Given their public statements I fear what is at work here is rather darker and more cynical – a deliberate attempt to wreck the legislation by introducing extra issues to it that will make it easier for opponents of equal marriage in Parliament to then filibuster, delay and block the legislation.

I have just got back from a ministerial trip Nigeria and so will find out more tomorrow. If this is simply a cynical trap by opponents of equal marriage to block it, then we need to be careful not to fall into it – no matter how temptingly attractive the amendments are that are being used to lay the trap.

 

Sun 19 May 2013
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Comments

  1. tom says:

    “Have Tim and his colleagues suddenly become converts to the cause of equality? ”

    Simple answer – NO!

  2. tom says:

    And surprise, surprise Comres pops up with a poll just out to add validity to the call for opposite sex CPs . What is the bill supposed to be about, equal marriage or everything other under the sun and much, much more? It’s taken the govt 2 and half yrs to get this far! Let’s face it the same people who think SSM undermines marriages will be the first to object to straight CPs if it ever gets off the ground.

    Here’s what the poll is saying.

    “The poll found that more than seven in ten MPs from all main parties support extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.

    A separate public poll suggests support for gay marriage could be affected if the Government’s proposals to legalise same sex marriage is not seen to be ‘equal’ in their treatment of opposite sex couples by failing to extend civil partnerships. The poll found that more than six in ten people who supported legalising same sex marriage said they would support it ‘only if couples of the opposite sex also get the right to enter into a civil partnership if they wish’.

    Tim Loughton MP, who is backing the amendment to extend civil partnerships, said: “This comprehensive poll clearly shows there is strong cross support to address the inequality that would result from marriage being available to same sex couples if the Bill goes through. Far from being a ‘wrecking measure’ some of the strongest support for my amendment to extend civil partnerships comes from the biggest supporters of same sex marriage in the Labour and Lib Dem parties. If the Government think it is right to extend marriage to everyone then it has to be right to extend civil partnerships to everyone too. This can only be good for improving stability for many more of the near 3m opposite sex couples who currently choose to cohabit but are in no formally recognised relationship. Giving them the opportunity for the rights and responsibilities that go with civil partnerships has also to be a good thing for more stability for children which is enormously important at a time of rising family breakdown.”

  3. Tyrone says:

    I hope that you will support humanist ceremonies! Scotland have them, why not England and Wales?

  4. Paula says:

    Although the trans community is grateful to be given inclusion in Same Sex Marriage (to avoid the need to annul for the trans person to obtain legal rights in their ‘acquired’ gender), there are problems.

    The spouses of trans people are being asked to ‘countersign’ their spouses GRC application that results in the trans person being awarded a GRC on the basis of the application alone. This is apparently to confirm that the spouse is happy to move into an arrangement that he/she did not sign up to when he/she originally married. We will not have equal marriage but marriage and same sex marriage. Thus the non trans spouse is being asked, in effect, to confirm that she is happy transferring to a ‘gay marriage’ when quite obviously remaining heterosexual. How do you think spouses feel about that?!!!!!

    Furthermore, had it not occurred to those drafting the Bill that the non trans partner has had years to decide whether or not to remain married and could have left the relationship if there are strongly held religious/personal views that SS Marriage is wrong. Instead, the proposal will add tensions to the marriage as one party will be put in a position of power over the other. Families that may have otherwise survived will be broken up. Couples need time to make adjustments. It takes years for couples to adjust to a gender transition and putting a 6 month time limit to come to a decision is brutal. Government destroyed families with the original GRA and it seems that this will continue with the unwanted effect of ‘spousal veto’. Furthermore, the concept of one person delaying the full civil rights of another will keep the lawyers busy for some time!

    One accepts that trans affected couples are necessarily being shoe-horned into the arrangement designed primarily for gay / lesbian couples but please don’t ram the sexual orientation perceptions down our throats and let us pretend that our existing marriages are being maintained!

    On a positive note, we all thank you Lynne for what you have done for us.

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