Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by The Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s (MB 100)

Introduction

[1] The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (www.lgf.org.uk) is a vibrant charity committed to achieving more positive outcomes for LGB&T people, with a wide portfolio of well-established services and new initiatives. The LGF is also the lead organisation of the Department of Health funded National LGB&T Partnership.

[2] The Lesbian and Gay Foundation is based in Manchester, and supports over 40,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGB&T) people each year. In addition to a wide range of health and advocacy services, it also undertakes research, information provision and policy campaigning on a national scale. As a result, the Lesbian & Gay Foundation provides more direct services and resources to more LGB&T people than any other organisation of its kind in the UK. The LGF is reported by service users to be one of the first points of contact for them when they have been at a crisis point in their lives. We campaign for a fair and equal society where all lesbian, gay and bisexual people can achieve their full potential, and our mission is: ‘Ending Homophobia, Empowering People’.

Support from the LGB&T community

[3] The proposed legislation in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is of significant legal, social and cultural importance to the LGB&T community. Existing civil partnership legislation allows same sex couples to have a legal union, but denies them the symbolic status of marriage. While not all same sex couples will want to marry, the LGF strongly believes that all people should have equal access to marriage, whatever their sexual orientation.

[4] The LGF notes that discussion of the Bill sometimes refers to ‘gay marriage’ and ‘straight marriage’; we would like to emphasise that the correct terms are same sex and opposite marriage, which are fully inclusive of bisexual and trans people who may be in an opposite sex relationship but still identify as members of the LGB&T community.

[5] The LGF has gathered comments from same sex couples explaining why the differences between civil partnerships marriage are important to them, demonstrating that it is not just the legal differences that matter, but the social differences too. A selection of comments is below:

[6] David & Darren: "Full marriage is important to us. It’s simple, we both believe in equality and our right to have the same choices as anyone else. We feel that it is extremely important for us to be seen as equal in the law."

[7] Kath & Christine: "It’s an awkward thing to say ‘civil partnered’, I just automatically say I’m married. We’re trying to teach our children tolerance and not to discriminate against anybody at a time where there is discrimination against people wanting to marry each other because they love each other."

[8] Rob & Richard: "Like our parents, we too want to be able to say that we 'are married.'"

[9] Sian & Sarah: "Being civilly partnered means I immediately have to out myself, and so does my family. It makes you feel ‘different’ and ‘other’. I wanted to get married like my sisters"

[10] Nick & Sarah: "We want to be married like proper equals to every other married couple. Civil partnerships do not seem to be taken as seriously to the rest of the world as marriage. To the individual having the partnership it can feel like it is a second class service. I think it contributed to homophobia as it’s not accepted and not equal. If we could get married, then being lesbian or gay would be seen as more ‘normal’ and there would be less discrimination over time"

[11] Martin & Daniel: "My brother will soon be a married man, just as my father was a married man, and my grandfathers before him. If Dan and I had a civil partnership under current legislation, I would not be able to say the same about myself. What would I be? 'Partnered'? What would my marital status be? 'Living as if married'?

Support from the wider community

[12] The LGF is clear that the legislation proposed in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is not about gay rights, or about ‘straight’ couples vs. ‘gay’ couples. Across society, people are ready for this change in legislation and see no need to perpetuate the difference in legal unions available to same-sex and opposite sex couples.

[13] Successive polls amongst the general public since 2004 have shown that the majority support same sex marriage. [1] YouGov’s latest poll shows 55% of people support the Bill. [2]

[14] The LGF has gathered comments from opposite sex couples explaining why the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is important to them. This demonstrates that equal civil marriage is important not just to those who are in same sex couples, but is part of the wider issue of equal rights for all.

[15] Sarah & Chris : I want my gay friends and family to have the same rights as I do. To me, it’s a no brainer.

[16] Claire & Rob : I see no difference between my relationship with my husband, and my friends’ relationships with their same sex partners.

[17] Caroline & Scott : In light of the fact that same-sex couples still cannot get married I view my ability to do this as a privilege. Denying same-sex couples the ability to have their love and commitment recognised as a ‘marriage’ reinforces the damaging idea that their relationships are less valid than mine.

Love Equal Marriage campaign

[18] Since the announcement of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in early December 2012, the LGF has run a Love Equal Marriage campaign to encourage discussion of the bill and raise awareness of how people can show their support for it. In the course of the campaign so far, over 1700 postcards have been distributed to members of the public wishing to write to their MP asking them to support the bill.

[19] During February, the LGF outreach team visited the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester talking to people about equal marriage. Over the 4 day period, the team spoke to over 750 people, around 96% of whom were positive about same sex marriage. People could have their photos taken to pledge their support for the bill; in total, 218 photos were taken of individuals, couples and groups. Photos from the roadshow can be viewed here: http://www.lgf.org.uk/news-articles/in-pictures-love-equal-marriage-roadshow.

Equal value

[20] Successive polls have shown that young people are more likely to support same sex marriage. [3] However, evidence shows that homophobia is still rife in UK schools [4] , and several high-profile homophobic murders in recent years have involved young people still in or just out of the education system. The LGF believes that the proposed legislation would contribute to social change in terms of positive perceptions of LGB&T people and reduced homophobia.

[21] Legislating for marriage equality between same sex and opposite sex couples would send out a strong message about the acceptability of same sex relationships, and the equal value placed on these relationships with opposite sex relationships by society.

March 2013


[1] House of Commons Library. Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (Bill No 126 of 2012-13) Research Paper 13/08 . 2013.

[2] YouGov. YouGov/Sunday Times Survey Results Fieldwork: 31st January - 1st February 2013 . 2013.

[3] House of Commons Library. Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (Bill No 126 of 2012-13) Research Paper 13/08 . 2013.

[4] Guasp, April. The School Report . Stonewall, 2012.

Prepared 8th March 2013