Ed Fordham writes: Oooh… equal everyone – surely not?

Filling out a form the other day the options were single, married, divorced, civil partnerships – so I didn’t complete that question.

No other, no long-term relationship – so it clearly didn’t apply to me… I tried explaining this to the person at the desk and they were positively un-interested. But yet again it irritated me.

Surely I’m not the only person who because I can’t marry (and therefore can’t divorce!), who hasn’t had a civil partnership, but considers themselves to be in a long term relationship?

Cue Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone and the influence of the Liberal Democrats in the Government. The thing I like about it just how uncontroversial the idea of equal marriage actually seems to be – the internal angst of certain religious faiths is a matter for them and their congregations and whilst I support those who are campaigning on such matters, for me, it’s a matter for them.

This should be a simple and uncontroversial law – to give any couple the right to a civil partnership or marriage essentially anywhere consenting – it means I could hire Hampstead Old Town Hall, or perhaps speak to my local Unitarians or Quakers, a more tricky and less profitable conversation with my Parish Priest or even ask for a large marquee on a large green space that has a special place in the heart of my partner and I.

And in a curious sort of way I think that’s where it stops as an issue… but somehow I suspect there will be howls of objection from the Christian right, no doubt the moral fabric of society will collapse, we may even have the bizarre scene of a gay rights group saying please don’t make this reform it ‘might’ [might] cost money, though we’re not sure how and have no evidence… [irony alert]! I also think that the House of Lords might want to dust off their sleeping bags for this one…

So how long for such legislation? – I‘m not sure and it’s only the consultation that has been announced by the Home Office. It feels like it might be a few years in the journey through from announcement on consultation through to statute books. But now I know that this weekend as I celebrate and genuinely appreciate being with my partner for many many years (it’s our anniversary on Saturday), Lynne Featherstone (political hero) will be toasted and crossed off my list of people to whom I might get hitched and instead I’ll be talking to my life partner of my choice.

Ed Fordham is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary campaigner for Hampstead and Kilburn and spoke in the equal marraige debate at Party Conference (September 2010)

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  • Anyone should have the right to draw up a “partnership contract” that has a legal standing, be that with a same sex or other sex partner, parent, child, relative, whatever, so that each person has the right to choose one other person with whom they will share the (mainly taxation) benefits of a declared relationship.

    This should be cheap and easily done, and easily ended.

    That is the bit that involves the State. Job done, let’s move on.

    Whatever else people want to do, be it a traditional church wedding, a moonie ceremony ot whatever, should then be a matter for the individuals concerned and the bodies with whom they want to liaise for that ceremony.

  • And to add to that -if individuals choose not to go for this cheap, easily arranged legal (non-religious, non-cultural, non-political) agreement and cohabit, then they should be aware that the trade off for not going for the legal contract is that they do not benefit from what that contract confers.

  • I think Tabman (and the French) have got it right. The legal bit should be the civil ceremony – the bit that confers inheritance, etc – and the religious bit should be an add-on if that’s what you want to do. That way, it allows everyone to register legally, with “marriage” being conferred by a religious institution – be it Church of England, Church of Scotland, the local synagogue, mosque or Jedi Knight.

  • Oh, and Petros – what would you tick if, for example, you had been seeing someone fairly regularly for a month or so, wouldn’t consider it a “long term partnership”, but probably not “single” either? There is a grey area on completing these forms.

    And in any case, Ed doesn’t say what the form was for – if his relationship status is not relevant to the service the form was for, then he shouldn’t have been asked and didn’t need to fill it out to get the service.

  • But why do we have to have a (long) consultation – Government should just legislate for equality now

  • Why don’t we just have a facebook style “It’s complicated” box on all these forms 🙂

    I agree with Ed’s main point – and don’t see why this is so difficult. You can get married anywhere that is happy to have the ceremony and no-organisation can be compelled to allow marriages involving particular types of couples (not just gay/lesbian couples – there could be religious objections to divorcees remarrying).

    Yes that could mean some churches could refuse to marry mixed race couples, but in that case people can go to another organisation where they’ll find people are far, far nicer.

  • Talking of tick boxes why do some organisations continue to use the phrase common-law as one? Its not got any legal meaning and should be outlawed…

  • KL – “I think Tabman … ha[s] got it right.”

    You’ve no idea how good that makes me feel given I usually seem to provoke an extreme reaction 😀

  • Andrew Suffield 17th Feb '11 - 7:00pm

    There should be another box on the form; “Mind your own business”.

    I simply don’t tick any box. It has the advantage of annoying whoever has to transcribe the form onto a computer that won’t accept this answer.

  • Yes that could mean some churches could refuse to marry mixed race couples, but in that case people can go to another organisation where they’ll find people are far, far nicer.

    What a ridiculously inane comment. Very few things annoy me more than when people conflate gender equality with race equality. Why people insist on doing it makes no sense as the stupidity of their reasoning is obvious.

  • “Very few things annoy me more than when people conflate gender equality with race equality.”

    I think if you look at the context of what I wrote I wasn’t particularly making that comparison. The issue is should you compel organisations to carry out ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs & teachings. That could apply to race, gender, marital status, hairstyle or a whole host of other issues. (eg should a Jedi church be compelled to bless the relationship of two Sith Lords 🙂

  • @Hywel

    The fact there are no religions or religious teachings that state that marriage is a union between a man and woman of the same race, shows the inanity of your comment.

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