Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Vince Llewelyn (MB 126)

Have your say on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Civil Partnerships and Marriages and Recognition Abroad (eg France).

I currently live in Australia with my partner. We are both British and we have done a British civil partnership.

When we lived in the UK we bought a holiday home in France. In 2008/2009 there was a lot of talk in the ex-pat community in France that the British civil partnership was not recognised in France despite the fact that France had their own version of the CP called PACS.

Some people who had moved to France with their same sex partner and whose partner had died in France were being issued with a huge inheritance bill on their dead partner’s estate (up to 60% of their estate with only a few thousand euro exemption band). PACSed couples and married couples were totally exempt from inheritance tax.

The French government (minister of justice) had replied to two earlier parliamentary questions on whether a Dutch same sex married couple would be recognised in France in the same way (for tax purposes in particular) as married couples. The reply was YES , providing both nationals were not French nationals. If either party was French then that marriage would not be recognised in France.

1. My first point is that although France has now changed it’s law (April 2009) to recognise British civil partnerships as equivalent to a French PACS it would have helped many people living in France if the UK had originally brought in marriages since France gave full recognition to foreign gay marriages. It took a lot of hard work for many of us to convince the French government to change it’s law.

2. My second point is that France (although it too is bringing in same sex marriages) will not recognise gay marriages between French nationals and British nationals. French nationals who have done CPs with their British partners , either in the British embassy in France or in the UK, can not get married if they want recognition in France. It is therefore important for these bi-national same sex couples to still be allowed to retain their civil partner status to get recognition in the UK and France.

3. My third point is that France recognise marriages NOT gay marriages, same sex marriages or any other form of marriage. If gay people want to have their marriage certificate recognised in France then it must be the same as a straight marriage. It must be called marriage.

4. My fourth point is that I read that there were concerns about submissions from abroad to the consultation on equal marriage. It is important for the UK to recognise that British people do live abroad and many of us are in a British civil partnership. The UK embassies allow us to perform CPs outside of the UK and the UK must provide us with a process to convert our CPs to a marriage whilst living outside of the UK.

Recognition of Overseas Opposite Sex Civil Unions/ Pension Rights for Same Sex Couples/Cost of Civil Partnership and Marriage Licences

1) Recognition of Overseas Opposite Sex Civil Unions – Many countries in the world offer civil unions to opposite sex couples, eg France, Holland, New Zealand, Belgium and Australia.

The current civil partnership bill, as far as I am aware, only recognises same sex overseas registered partnerships. Many couples who perform a PACS in France (the French equivalent of the British civil partnership) are of the opposite sex. A PACS is open to all nationals and many that perform a French PACS are British citizens. The French PACS confers the same major rights to a couple as a marriage. There are of course some differences. Both PACS couples and married couples are for example exempt from inheritance tax. Will the UK consider recognising British and foreign opposite sex couples who have returned or moved to the UK from overseas.

2) Pension Rights for Same Sex Couples – The was a recent article on the inequalities around pension rights for same sex couples ( http://www.professionalpensions.com/professional-pensions/news/2242879/marriage-bill-will-not-equalise-benefits-for-samesex-spouses ) where it states the following:

"Currently, the Equality Act 2010 dictates schemes must treat all members equally, but also gives schemes a get-out clause whereby they can base the survivor's benefit for civil partners only on service from 2005, when civil partnerships were created, if they wish.

Schemes usually provide married couples with a survivors' pension based on the whole of the deceased's pensionable service, regardless of the date of their marriage"

Please can consider remedying this inequality in accordance with the recommendation of the recent court case brought by Liberty:

"This comes after a successful legal challenge to the treatment of surviving civil partners, brought by human rights organization Liberty on behalf of a scheme member

An employment tribunal decided that Innospec scheme member John Walker, who entered a civil partnership in 2006, should have access to a survivor's benefit for his partner equal to that offered to a married member "

3) Cost of Civil Partnerships and Marriage Licences – The recent legislation to allow the registration of CPs in religious buildings shows that the cost to the religious organisations to obtain a licence to perform these are much more expensive that obtaining a marriage licence. A recent article in the Guardian has data showing this (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/feb/08/civil-partnership-licences-local-councils-charging). Please could you ensure that the burden of the licence registration cost for those religious organisations wishing to perform same sex marriage does not exceed their current cost. Indeed I’m not quite sure that any additional costs should be added on to these organisations for performing same sex marriages.

Legal Protection to People who Believe in Same Sex Marriage

1) I read today that an Ohio Catholic school administrator was sacked by the Catholic church from working in a Catholic school for supporting gay marriage on his personal blog ( http://abcnews.go.com/US/catholic-school-administrator-fired-supporting-gay-marriage/story?id=18477646).

2) I don’t know believe that a teacher who gives his own personal opinion on same sex marriage should be forced to be sacked by a Catholic run school nor should any other religious school sack a person for giving their own personal opinion on marriage. If teachers wish to believe in gay marriage ,and say so, they should be free to do so. They can promote marriage as their school wishes them to do but I still believe their personal opinion on the issue shouldn’t be a cause for dismissal.

3) I am equally concerned that children or children of parents who believe in same sex marriage will be refused entry to local schools simply because they believe in an alternative view of the religion of that school.

4) I am aware that Edward Leigh MP is calling for changes to the Equality Act to protect Christians and those from other religions who support the current definition of marriage and I must also point out that if this happens then similar protections should be given to those people with alternative views on marriage as well.

5) Others case s included a UKIP parliamentary candidate 'forced to quit' over support for gay marriage http://www.chesterfirst.co.uk/news/118932/ukip-candidate-forced-to-quit-over-support-for-gay-marriage.aspx and another where an elected Chairman of the UKIP party Ollie Neville was sacked for giving his personal views on gay marriage .

March 2013

Prepared 13th March 2013