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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com. 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
September 4, 2015
We are really pleased to be able to tell you that the High Court have decided on a date for Charles and Rebecca’s Judicial Review – it’s going to take place on 19 and 20 January 2016. The Court has allocated two full days and a senior judge to the case, and the hearing is open to the public – so put it in your diaries and come and witness some history in the making (fingers crossed)!
In addition to supporting Charles and Rebecca’s legal team build their case, we have also been busy working on the inside with key decision makers who have the power to make the change we are seeking. A Ten Minute Rule Bill has been tabled for 21 October 2015 by Tim Loughton MP, calling for a very simple amendment to the Civil Partnership Act – solely to remove the sentence that limits civil partnerships to same-sex couples – and we are having meetings with a number of supportive MPs from across the parties to rally behind the Bill. As we get closer to 21 October, we’ll be asking all of our supporters to write to and Tweet your MPs to ask them to attend and support the Bill, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop.
If you haven’t yet, please don’t forget to share Charles and Rebecca’s change.org petition with your friends and family – it only takes a minute and the more signatures we get the easier it is for us to convince MPs that this is an issue they need to get behind…
The ECP Team x
August 6, 2015
23 July 2015
We were really pleased to read ‘Unmarried couples: it’s make your mind up time, before a law does it for you.’ As the steering group of the campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships, we are all too aware of the pitfalls that cohabitating couples can face, and like Jenny McCartney, we see absolutely no reason why heterosexual couples should be denied civil partnerships. That’s why we’re calling on the government to extend the right to civil partnerships to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. A Private Members Bill calling for an amendment to the current legislation (which prohibits opposite-sex couples from accessing civil partnerships) is scheduled for 21 October, and a Judicial Review will also be taking place this autumn.
While Baron Marks of Henley-on-Thames’s Cohabitation Bill would give long-term co-habiting couples a number of limited rights automatically, civil partnerships would offer (for those couples who want it) a modern social institution conferring almost identical legal rights as marriage, but without its historical baggage, often out-dated gender roles and social expectations.
Simply extending the right to civil partnerships to all couples would give many families, including some of ours, greater security and stability and put an end to this strange anomaly in the law which is currently undermining equality in the UK.
Dr. Rebecca Steinfeld
Professor Robert Wintemute
July 30, 2015
The Equality Network’s new Scottish LGBT Equality Report recommends “the Scottish Government should resolve outstanding partnership equality issues including the ban on mixed-sex civil partnership and the need to allow couples in non-Scottish civil partnerships to convert their civil partnership to marriage if they wish to do so.” We couldn’t agree more!
We’re thrilled the Equality Network supports equal civil partnerships – see here for more information about why they believe civil partnerships should be open to all, and check out the full report for the most comprehensive research to date into LGBT people’s experiences of inequality in Scotland.
June 25, 2015
We’re calling on the government to extend the right of civil partnerships to all couples, regardless of sex or sexuality. Currently under UK law all couples have the right to marry, however only same-sex couples are able to form civil partnerships.
A judicial review is set to take place later this year, as it is evident that this inequality undermines the core principle of democracy that all people should be treated equally before the law.
Write to your MP to ask them to fight for equal civil partnerships, to improve equality in the UK without wasting tax payers’ money fighting this legal case. The first fifty letters are paid for, so do it today and it won’t cost you a penny!
May 11, 2015
We are really pleased to launch our website, and we hope you like it! Have a look around to find out more about our brand new campaign, Rebecca and Charles’ legal challenge, check out our fantastic supporters, and find out how you can get involved too. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date as the campaign develops.
The ECP team x
Image: The keyboard (#18/365) by Mr Seb on Flickr