Thoughts of the week.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Since 2004,   there has been something called Civil Partnerships in the UK.  Where same sex couples can enter into a legal  committed relationship in front of a registrar and have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other married couple.

Everybody I know refer to them as “married”  and call the partners, “husband” wife”  or  ” spouse”

Most people have such a couple within their acquaintance and regard them as married  the same as any other couple.

Yesterday our Prime minister, David Cameron introduced a bill to Parliament to   ” legalise same sex marriage”   which basically just changes the name,  because at the same time still makes it illegal for same sex couples to be married in a Church of England church.  ( the only official church a couple can get married in in England) as the church teaching does not allow it.

This has prompted a huge media debate and threatened the stability of the ruling Conservative party, as a lot of right wing Conservatives voted against the bill.   David Cameron’s credibility as Prime minister has been called into question,  as so many Conservatives rebelled.

 Although there has been a huge  media debate, I have not heard one ordinary person even express an opinion about this matter.  Frankly I don’t think people  really care that much, they are more concerned about the economy, austerity measures,  unemployment, the horrible weather and the threat to the NHS.

So it baffles me why the PM should choose now to  put  this bill through parliament and stir up all these strong feelings

There are those who argue, usually from a religious perspective, that ” marriage  is between a man and a woman, for the procreation of children”.   Maybe in their religion this is all it means.   They are entitled  to their opinion,  ( and nobody will be forcing these religions to marry same sex couples)  but they are being branded as homophobic and bigoted.

 Given that the majority of weddings in England now take place in a registry office or other registered venue,  rather than a church,  this is probably a minority view.  But I respect the right of these people to have this view after all it is THEIR religion and their beliefs.

On the other hand there are those who argue, usually from a gay perspective,  that if two people want to commit to each other, why should they be discriminated against?    They also are entitled to their opinion,   but I am not sure where this discrimination comes in.  At the end of the day they have the same rights and responsibilities as any other married couple.

 The pro camp have in turn have stirred up fears that if a church  vicar refuses to marry a same sex couple, they will be dragged to the court of human rights and made to marry same sex couples against their will.

Given that  the only people who can perform marriage ceremonies in this country are Registrars ( employed by the state and who have to be present at all non Cof E church weddings)  and Church of England vicars ( for whom it will still  not be be legal to perform same sex marriages)    I don’t really see how this legislation changes anything other than the name.

 The Church of England already will not marry divorced people and people of other faiths, because it is against their beliefs,  this has always been accepted, so why is it thought that same sex couples will be any different?

My personal take is that “marriage” means different things to each individual at the time of the marriage and often this is never discussed beforehand,  Both parties bring to marriage an idea of what that means and really it would save a lot of divorces if this was negotiated beforehand, but with stars in their eyes this does not seem very romantic to talk about.

.    For some it is a lifelong commitment.     For most, there are circumstances under which they could not tolerate continuing with the relationship.. ……although it is interesting to note that there is no legal requirement to promise anything to each other .  It is only (by  statute)   necessary to declare that you know of no legal impairment why you should not be joined in matrimony and then to call upon persons present to witness that you take each other as your legal husband or wife.

For some ” marriage” is purely a  love match.  For others it has been arranged by their parents who they feel are wiser in these matters.  For centuries “marraige” has been used for political  power, money  or to provide an heir    For some it is purely  business arrangement.

  Sometimes it is expected that  the roles of  “husband ”  is to be a provider  or “wife”  to be a carer and home-maker     For others there is an expectation that each partner should contribute equally both financially and in caring/ home-making  responsibilities.

For some it is to bring up children together.    Sometimes people marry with no intention of having children together or are past childbearing age.  They marry for companionship or to share their lives. .

There is usually, but not always,  an expectation that each will be sexually faithful to each other.   Some couples never have sex with each other for lots of complex reasons and this is not an issue for them.

I married three times. Each time with different expectations.  The first was for love and for life,   the second was for  children,  I expected it was for life ,  but realistically I knew that it may not be for life  and the third was for   commitment  and companionship  and hopefully for life!!.  These expectations were specific to my age and circumstance.

Personally I have no problem with two people who love each other,   making a commitment to each other and taking on  legal rights  and responsibilities     Nor do I have any problem with couples  having children together or not.    What is important to me is the quality of that relationship,   not the gender of the participants.  But there again I do not subscribe to any specific religion and think of myself as liberal.

The bill was passed, so civil partnerships will now officially  be called “ marriage” , although the general public has used that term for years.  Only the people involved can tell whether this will make a difference.

But I am not sure this has been worth all the hassle,  bad feeling  and threat to the government  that.this has stirred up within Parliament and the media.

Love Denise.

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10 thoughts on “WHAT’S IN A NAME?

    • After I wrote this, I maybe wondered if I was being dismissive to the feelings of same sex couples. To some of whom, obviously, what their union is called is important.
      One of my main points was that the timing is questionable, when we have so many crisis going on. Although I did not vote for the Conservatives. The damage that has been done to the ruling party seems immense and that can only be bad for the country in times like this we need everybody to be working together.not falling out between themselves about minority issues.

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  1. I don’t really have a horse in this race, being neither gay nor religious, but I think even if it is just a matter of semantics it makes more sense just to have one rule for all. The religious standpoint denies certain rights or statuses to gay couples, whereas gay people marrying doesn’t change anything for religious people, who will be able to keep on not marrying gay people in churches (as you point out), so why should them getting upset about it have priority? I personally like the French system, where you must get married by the State if you want it legally recognised – that takes the actual, official marriage (which gets you tax and other advantages from the government, after all) out of the religious sphere, but you’re still free to have a religious ceremony if you wish.

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    • Yes I like the French system too..Saves all the arguments. Given that there has been lots of demonstrations in France recently. Is same sex marriage legal there?

      Since the last marriage act in the late 1990’s UK couples have been able to have marriage in a licensed venue other than a registry office.or a Church of England church.as long as a registrar is present.

      When I married in a hotel in 2000, it was unusual. Now the majority of couples get married in such places or a registry office,. . I think this shows that the majority of couples do not want a church wedding or have religious view around marriage.

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  2. So far we have a civic partnership as you do. Same sex marriage isn’t legal yet but should soon be, the Assemblée Nationale will certainly vote it next week, and I guess that the Senat will too later (you need both Assemblies votes to pass a law).
    Unlike what you describes about England, debates have been all over the country and there have been huge pro and anti demonstrations (but then we’re in France, so demonstrating is in our genes …) .
    Actually the real problem isn’t marriage : polls show that a large majority of people are actually pro-gay marriage, but then a small majority are also anti-adoption (the right to adopt is included in the same law) and then a large majority is against the right to medically-assisted procreation. This part has been later taken out of the current law project in order to ease its passing, but it will surface again soon. So you see the fuss it’s not about the marriage itself, it’s what comes next, namely the “droit à l’enfant” (“right to a child”) concept and demand.

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    • Interesting Anne. Thanks for explaining it.

      I think in England, the adoption issue has been already dealt with. As far as I know there is no bar to anybody applying for adoption . Regardless of sexuality, marital status, religion age, even single people can adopt. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. Of course they have to go through a rigorous selection process.

      When the law was changed, I now remember that some faith based adoption agencies had to close or change themselves if their policies did not include same sex or different faith parents.

      As for assisted conception egg donation and surrogacy, all are legal here , as long as it is not done for money. ( except private IVF) The ethics are debatable and there are strict restrictions on these procedures if funded by the NHS.

      I am surprised that medically assisted procreation is resisted by a large majority in France, as worldwide this has been an accepted solution for infertility for many years.

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      • Well single people can adopt here too, like homosexuals are allowed to adopt as single people too, only they cannot adopt as a couple so far (i.e. a child cannot have officially two fathers or else two mothers yet).
        Medically assisted procreation is widely used and 100% funded by the Social Security for couples with medical infertility problems, but women couples want to get this too. As far as men are concerned, surrogacy is illegal here in whatever circumstances (if I understand right that what you call surrogacy is a woman who has a contract with a couple to bear their baby ?), but some gay unions already say that it would be discriminatory to allow women the right to a child and not men.
        As you can see there is ground for many heated discussions in the population as each matter here raises pros and cons, ethical questions and so on …

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  3. . I understand that you mean , medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples.. and IVF surrogacy for male couples.

    Hmm, I see that each issue leads to another.which really all should be dealt with in the initial Equality bill, but because in France, as in England, they have made compromises to certain pressure groups to get the bill through there are “holes” in the law.. Therefore when these anomalies are than dealt with the whole issue is stirred up again.

    As in France it would be much simpler if the legal bit was done by the registrar of the state and then for those with religious needs for their union, the church of their choice could do that But sadly there are historical and political barriers in the way. We are not a secular country.

    In England we have a state church, Church of England, which like the monarchy has a constitutional role.. The history of this goes back to Henry VII, the civil war and the restoration of the monarchy. So legally everybody is entitled to marry in a Church of England church, (but the Cof E church will not marry people of other faiths or divorced people, so they already are allowed to discriminate.) This is why they have had to put in the clause that it is illegal to marry same sex couples in Cof E church to protect the churches stance on SSM. This leaves them open to more heated debate and accusations of discrimination. and another bill.

    Quakers, United Reform churches and Unitarian churches already perform civil ceremonies, if the minister is a registrar or the registrar is present, so I assume they are happy do call them “marriage”.

    Incidentally, UK civil partnerships of same sex couples have be be dissolved in exactly the same way as divorce and provision made for children of the union. … with all the same legal wrangling!

    Nowadays the majority of couples opt to have a civil ceremony in a licensed venue

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  4. It seems to me, that by prohibiting gays from marriage, the state is officially saying they are different. And if even the state says they are different, then that kind of justifies prejudices, so by changing the laws, the government is saying that homosexuals are the same as everyone else, and I think is message is very important.
    My step kids are against gay adoption because it hasn’t been ‘tested’. This shocks me.

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    • Mm I find it surprising too. There are plenty of examples of children brought up by all female couples and also male couples.

      I agree that just by giving a same sex union a different name it implies there is something different about it and I think this has only been done to appease those with religious objections because the church has political power in England.

      The irony is that the general public see no difference (which in law there is not) and CPs are known as marraige here, except for the odd person who has issues with it .

      On Saturday we went to s 90th birthday party of Michaels uncle who has 8 children. And too many grandchildren and great grandchildren to count. In this staunch Catholic family was nice to see how the 3 same sex couples and an openly gay man were just accepted by everyone

      Except for the jokey picture he insisted on with ” the gay offspring” there was no other reference at all

      Love Denise

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