Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is it time for British Unitarians to support same sex marriage?

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece in the Inquirer about same-sex marriage. My point was that the current civil partnership legislation creates a two-tier system that when you get right down to it, isn't equality. One of the major rights that are given to different sex couples, the right to get married in a religious ceremony, is not given to same sex couples. A civil partnership ceremony has to be in a registry office or hotel, whereas a different sex wedding can take place in a church. This means that a religious community is prevented by the state from performing same sex weddings, even if they want to. It creates the impression that all religious communities are conservative and homophobic and don't want to perform same sex marriages, denying the possiblity that some religious communities will want to perform same sex weddings.

I support same-sex marriage, not a two-tier system, although it's difficult to say civil partnerships are a bad thing as they have given legally security to thousands of couples and are clearly a step forward.

As I was hoping there is talk of a resolution at the Annual Meetings in March. The resolution I have seen calls for the right for civil partnerships to be performed in a religious place of worship, which again, is a step forward, but it falls short of calling for same sex marriage. I'm also not knowledgable enough about the legislation to know if it's possible or practical to amend it in this way. Not that I believe the government will pay attention to us if we just pass a resolution. But I'm glad that the national Unitarian community will have this dialogue. And I hope it will be possible to build coalitions to get this message out there. It would be good to get a progressive religious voice out for once. We'll see.


Anonymous plonkee @ the religious atheist said...

I wouldn't be opposed to having something like the French system where all legal marriages have to take place in a civil setting.

I agree that there should be no distinction between same sex and opposite sex partnerships in law. I think that the marriage laws would have to be altered slightly to make that practical, but laws get changed all the time.

My gut instinct is that civil partnerships were introduced, because it's better to have something that offers people all the legal protections of marriage, than to want to have truly equal legislation but be unable to get it passed.

9:04 pm  
Blogger Rich said...

Calling for civil partnerships to be allowed in a place of worship and calling for full marriage rights for same-sex couples is essentially the same thing - only the name is different. They couldn't carry on calling them civil partnerships if they were allowed to take place in a chapel anyway, could they?

But I agree with you that something needs to be done. Either make all legal partnerships civil by removing the right for places of worship to register marriages altogether (but still perform the ceremony) or make marriage available to any two unmarried adults.

8:34 am  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yes, I would be happy with a European system that entirely separated the religious and civil aspects of marriage. Civil marriage should be available to all couples, and those who wanted could have a religious marriage, if they and the religious community wanted to.

9:35 am  

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