Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Katherine Rock (MB 09)

Summary:

I believe that marriage should be extended to same-sex couples as per the proposed same-sex marriage bill with amendments made to the section regarding divorce and annulment of same-sex married couples. I believe that religious same-sex marriages should be legal in accordance with the proposed opt-in option and, furthermore, that civil partnerships should be extended to include opposite sex couples.

1. My fiancée and I share a home and our lives together. We are in a loving, monogamous relationship and plan on starting a family in a few years. Our relationship is equal to that of many of our peers’ whose marriages we have celebrated by attending their wedding, yet because my fiancée and I are both women, we do not currently have the option to become each other’s wives.

2. This debate and consultation over same-sex marriage has sparked fierce views from both those who support and oppose it, however there seems to be one constant: the value of marriage to British society. It is the bedrock of a family and a symbolic and legal representation between two individuals.

3. The word marriage is powerful and meaningful, unlike that of civil partnership, which although confer the majority of legal rights of marriage, do not infer the same social status.

4. There seems to have been confusion amongst many debating against the case for equal marriage: homosexual couples, like myself and my fiancée, MAY have monogamous, sexual relationships with or without biological or adopted children, just as their heterosexual counterparts. These relationships are not just deep platonic friendships. I fear that the two separate institutions we currently have in the UK have perpetuated the misconceptions surrounding homosexual relationships, and whilst I welcome the increasing acceptance of such relationships, helped in part by the introduction of civil partnerships, gay couples will not be viewed as equals in British society until the law becomes equal and permits us to marry. In light of this I also feel uncomfortable with the discrepancies still left in the proposed marriage (same-sex couples) bill (Part 4, Divorce and Annulment of Marriage) between same-sex and opposite-sex couples with regard to the definition of adultery. A sexual relationship between individuals in a couple is part of marriage and therefore, in my opinion, any sexual contact between and married man or woman and any other individual (regardless of gender) should designate adultery. Whilst skirting around this issue and avoiding defining same-sex sexual relations may be easier legally, it falsely implies that this is not part of marriage for same-sex couples and unnecessarily treats same-sex and opposite-sex couples as two separate groups.

5. I am not religious and would therefore want a civil marriage, just as some of my heterosexual friends have already. I see no reason why equal marriage under the state (civil marriage) should not be legalised. Many deeply religious individuals who are opposed to this bill cite morality as a reason; this saddens me as whilst I suppose their right to religious freedom, they are seeking to quash my civil one.

6. Although it is a very separate issue (as marriage is not possessed by religion), this bill also focuses on religious same-sex marriage. I accept that religion is complex and each different religion or even different religious groups within those religions have different beliefs. However, given the wide ranging support (e.g. Quakers) and opposition (e.g. Catholics), I believe that religious organisations should have the right to conduct or not conduct marriages depending on whether they have opted in. I am satisfied that the bill’s proposed "quadruple lock" is more than sufficient to protect people’s religious freedom, just as religious organisations currently have the option of whether or not to allow civil partnerships to be conducted on their premises.

7. Finally, to give full equality to all couples, regardless of gender, I believe that civil partnerships should be extended to heterosexual couples. Whilst it is unfair to deny gay couples of the right to marry, likewise, heterosexual couples who wish to become civil partners should be extended this right too.

February 2013

Prepared 15th February 2013