October 29, 2015
A Ten Minute Rule Bill (a type of Private Member’s Bill) calling for a very small amendment to the Civil Partnership Act, simply to remove the clause that limits civil partnerships to same-sex couples, went through to its second reading completely unopposed. Tim Loughton MP, who tabled the Bill, said:
“Opposite-sex couples who do not want to go down the formal marriage route are completely unrecognised in the eyes of the state. With 3 million cohabiting opposite-sex couples in the UK, and 40% of them having children, this is a large body of people and they have few protections if things go wrong, let alone tax advantages rightly now available to same-sex couples who can choose between marriage and civil partnership. Many cohabiting couples are living under the complete misconception that they are protected by ‘common law marriage,’ which does not formally exist. At a time when we want to do everything to encourage family stability particularly to help foster strong childhoods it is absurd that the state has no way of recognising and celebrating these relationships. It is high time we recognised equal civil partnerships to give greater security to millions of our citizens.”
The Bill will have its second reading on 29 January 2016, and received cross-party support from:
Graham Brady MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Greg Mulholland MP, Geoffrey Robinson MP, Sir Roger Gale MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Anne Main MP, Sir Keir Starmer MP, Pauline Latham MP, and Mark Durkan MP, amongst others.
You can watch Tim presenting his Bill on BBC Parliament, here.
October 6, 2015
We loved this blog from one of our supporters in Scotland, Shelagh Young. You can check out her other blogs here:
“Helen Lewis, writing in the Guardian this week, explained why feminists have to keep on fighting for hard won rights. We also need to fight for new ones such as the right to legal recognition of different sex partnerships on equal terms to same sex couples.
This matters because marriage is still not treated as a union of equals. My partner and I celebrated our 10th unwedded anniversary over 20 years ago. I had decided long before then that marriage was not for me. There were no civil partnerships back in 1994 so I viewed marriage as an incorrigibly discriminatory institution. Worse still, I came of age in an era when the law did not even accept that there could be such a crime as rape if the rapist was a woman’s husband. For me marriage was a shocking anachronism linked far too closely to the days when married women loved, obeyed and seemed to enjoy fewer legal rights than the family dog.
So, it is disappointing to learn from the preamble to the current Scottish Government consultation on civil partnerships that our ministers are “not persuaded” to extend the right to get hitched the modern way to different-sex couples. That denies us equality under the law and leaves only the option of marriage, that weird, outmoded vehicle dragging its load of misogynistic clutter off to the nearest honeymoon suite.
I know what I’m talking about because, although my partner felt just the same as me, reader, I married him. My excuse? A social worker made me do it. We were trying to adopt children and adoption social workers, it seems, are a pretty conventional bunch. Filled with fear of being discriminated against for being a happy, stable, unmarried couple we capitulated a few weeks before the adoption panel met and summoned a few friends to witness the demise of our principles. We clung on for longer than most – but from the day an adoption agency told us that they used to have the “luxury of only dealing with married couples” we knew our options were narrowing.
I dare say adoption social workers have moved on a bit since then but the option of a civil partnership still matters because all the cultural marriage baggage has not yet been jilted at the altar. The law has changed but attitudes move more slowly. While barely anyone registers distress at the knowledge that couples, of any type, are NOT married or in a civil partnership, we reluctant hetero brides still face relentless battery by other people’s ideas of what marriage must entail. From the double-barrelled last name, foisted on me by folk who cannot quite accept that I intend to keep my birth name forever to the puzzled faces when I correct Mrs to Ms, I am never allowed to forget that marriage is riven with gendered expectations. It is the 21st century and yet, last summer, my bank changed my title from Ms to Mrs without even asking me. When I remonstrated a young sounding bloke decided to tell me it was my “proper” title.
Marriage isn’t the iniquitous misogynistic institution it once was but it isn’t far off it. If I didn’t hate bureaucracy more than I dislike being married I’d be divorced by now. So how about it Scottish Government? Put your fine words on equality into action and grant people like me the right to tie up the legal loose ends of coupledom in a form better suited to the 21st century. Make civil partnerships available to all.
October 5, 2015
We are writing to ask for your help. A Private Member’s Bill has been tabled for 21 October, calling for a very simple amendment to the Civil Partnership Act: simply to remove the clause that limits civil partnerships to same-sex couples. This would have the same outcome as Charles and Rebecca are seeking with their judicial review, giving opposite-sex couples the right to civil partnerships, promoting equality, and ending this strange anomaly in the law.
The Bill needs cross-party support – and this is where you come in. We need you to speak to your MP: if you can, go and see them in their constituency surgery, or email or write to them, telling them why making civil partnerships equal is important to you. We really need you to convince them why this is an important issue for you, as their constituent, and why they therefore need to sign up to the Bill and support it on 21 October.
We have created a template letter (which you can send for free here), but the more you can personalise it the better. We’ve also created a one page resource sheet, here, which contains all of the facts and figures you might want to use if you can go and speak to your MP face-to-face. You can find out who your MP is and how to contact them simply by typing your postcode here.
We’ll be at the House of Commons on the 21st of October (the Bill will receive its hearing at some point between 12.30-3.30pm), and you are really welcome to join us as we watch the Bill unfold – we’d love to meet you. Just drop us an email at email@example.com so we know how much tea and cake to get in!
The ECP team x
PS – it would be really helpful if you could let us know if you contact your MP, who they are, and how they respond. And if you want any help or further information, just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! x
October 2, 2015
“Everyone in Scotland who would like to be able to choose between a marriage and a civil partnership, should respond to the Scottish Government’s “Review of civil partnership”, launched on 22 September. The consultation gives us all an opportunity to persuade the Scottish Government to change its mind about opposing different-sex civil partnerships; recognising that the existing law discriminates directly on the basis of sexual orientation (contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998). It is a simple matter of equality to extend civil partnership to different-sex couples.
A lot of public money was spent on setting up civil partnership. It would be wasteful to abolish a public institution, which some same-sex couples would like to retain, and which a significant minority of different-sex couples would like to join. These different-sex couples do not wish to marry. As long as they are excluded from civil partnership, they and their children may suffer from their not having a registered relationship.
The cost of extension should be minimal, because all of the necessary procedures already exist. Any increase in survivor’s pension benefits would be the same as if the newly civilly partnered couples had chosen to marry.
A campaign calling for equal civil partnerships is underway in England and Wales: a Private Member’s Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on 21 October, and a judicial review under the Human Rights Act will be heard by the High Court in January (equalcivilpartnerships.org.uk). We, the steering group and supporters of the campaign for equal civil partnerships, based on both sides of the border, want to see all couples in the UK afforded the same rights to civil partnerships – regardless of sex, sexuality, or location, and need support from across the UK to make that a reality.
In addition to responding to the consultation, explaining why equal civil partnerships are important to you personally, as many people as possible should contact their MSPs and MPs and ask them to end this bizarre anomaly of two choices for same-sex couples, one for different-sex couples. In every other equal marriage country in Europe, all couples have the same choices.”
Lee Chalmers, Director, The Parliament Project and Feminist Researcher
Martin Loat, CEO, Propeller PR
Fiona Millar, Journalist and Education Campaigner
Dr. Rebecca Steinfeld, Political Scientist and BBC New Generation Thinker
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law, King’s College London
Shelagh Young, Chair, The Phone Co-Op