Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed?


9:20 am - July 8th 2010

by Soho Politico    


      Share on Tumblr

At several points in his interview with Sunny, published yesterday, Ed Miliband comes across either as lacking the courage of his leftwing convictions, or as lacking those convictions altogether.

And then there is this:

Would you allow gays to be legally married, rather than just be registered as a civil partnership?

He hesitates. “I will listen to what people have to say on going further than that if there is a demand. No one has yet put that to me in the leadership election.” He said his feeling was that not enough people were asking for the policy.

The coalition has promised to ‘consult‘ on gay marriage (with whom?), and now Ed Miliband, bravely, says that he will also ‘listen’ to people about it.

He suggests that not enough people are asking for it. This implies that he is not now listening to the gay activists who are already campaigning on the issue, and also raises the intriguing question of how many people demanding gay marriage would, for Ed Miliband, seem like ‘enough’ to encourage him to get behind it.

It is difficult to understand why Ed Miliband thinks this issue is not clearcut. What possible good secular reason could one have to resist implementing full marriage equality? I am at a loss to think of one.

Civil partnership legislation was of course a hugely important step. But it was just that – a step, not the end goal.

The status quo gives us marriage apartheid, and will continue to be seen as implicitly endorsing the view that gay relationships are inferior until it is changed.

True enough, some gay people prefer civil partnerships, e.g. on grounds that they do not have connotations of ownership, as marriage is sometimes seen to do. But that just suggests, though, that civil partnerships should also be available, to gay and straight couples who want them. It’s important to note that there isn’t anything wrong with civil partnerships, just with the inequality.

It is a deep shame that, when presented with such an easy opportunity to support equality, Miliband flunked it. Not that his rivals have done any better to date, of course.

Labour is currently in the lamentable position of having nobody among the current crop of leadership candidates who openly and unequivocally supports gay marriage. If the candidates want to offer genuine change, they could start here.

On Twitter, @ConorPope, points me to this post, by Kerry McCarthy, in which she suggests that there may be practical roadblocks to implementing marriage equality. McCarthy writes:

Civil partnerships are not the same as marriage. And we won’t have true equality until they are. I’ve tried looking into this, and the explanation I got as to why the UK hasn’t gone down the path of other countries who have legalised gay marriage was that it’s more difficult in the UK because whereas in those countries you can only be married in a civil ceremony and can then choose to go on and have a religious service should you want one, in the UK you can be married in church without the civil element. Which I took to mean that you couldn’t have gay marriage in this country without persuading the Church of England, Catholic church, etc, to accept it.

I don’t understand what the difficulty is supposed to be here. In this country, heterosexual couples can already choose between a civil and religious marriage. the former being conducted in a registry office.

Gay marriage would, in the first instance, extend the availability of civil marriage to gay couples. Religious marriage could also be allowed in churches that agree to conduct them.

You would not have to win over or secure the consent of religious denominations opposed to gay marriage for any of this. Those that oppose gay marriage needn’t perform them.

* A longer version is at Soho Politico’s blog.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post. Soho Politico blogs here.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Events ,Labour party ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


He suggests that not enough people are asking for it. This implies that he is not now listening to the gay activists who are already campaigning on the issue, and also raises the intriguing question of how many people demanding gay marriage would, for Ed Miliband, seem like ‘enough’ to encourage him to get behind it.

Indeed. If one person (well, two I suppose) wants it, is that not enough?

It is difficult to understand why Ed Miliband thinks this issue is not clearcut. What possible good secular reason could one have to resist implementing full marriage equality? I am at a loss to think of one.

Quite.

There is no concevable reason to not legalise it – and many many reasons why we should.

People accepted Civil Partnerships fine. Why aren’t they doing it?

for those who are interested it might be worth reading a trascript of the prop 8 trial going on in the US now – where the reasons FOR gay marriage are plentiful, persuasive and coherant… the reasons AGAINST range from ‘oh, so you hate your children?’ to ‘the end of society as we know it’ and the only witness for the anti-gay-marriage side who didn’t drop out went on to say that banning gay marriage was un-american

Don’t bother with a civil contract with a veneer of religion over the top for homosexuals. Instead, force heterosexuals to take out the naked civil contract in the same way homosexuals currently do.

Civil partnerships and marriages are the same in all but name, and I can’t think of any good /secular/ reason why they shouldn’t be called civil partnerships in law for /everyone/.

Once you drop the CofE’s special privileges in this respect (yes please!), there’s no good religious reason either, beyond “we want special privilege in law”.

What constituency is he worried about alienating I wonder?

5. Shatterface

‘It is difficult to understand why Ed Miliband thinks this issue is not clearcut. What possible good secular reason could one have to resist implementing full marriage equality? I am at a loss to think of one’

Precisely. The taboos against homosexuality are religious in origin. A secular society should put straight and gay marrages on an equal footing or, as Nick suggests, replace marriage with civil partnerships across the board.

6. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar, Buffet, Dancing 'til Late

“What constituency is he worried about alienating I wonder?”

Er, people who hate gays. And there are plenty out there in the Shires. It’s not just them thar eeeeeviiillll Musselmen that you were clearly referring to – as if they’re some kind of powerful monolithic voting bloc in the first place.

“And there are plenty out there in the Shires.”

And they are potential Labour voters are they?

There is no reason why any couple who wish to be legally married should not be able to be so and take advantage of whatever changes in their legal status that entails.

However one of the rationales for marriage, both religious and civil, was that it was intended to bind couples together and therefore provide security for the offspring of the relationship.

As a gay relationship cannot, by its nature, produce children, I am not sure that it can ever have true parity with a heterosexual marriage no matter how much that perspective may be seen as desirable or how much such an agenda is spun.

Perhaps the gay movement might do better to try to concentrate on what gay people want and what makes them happy rather than insisting on mimicking heterosexual mores and demanding absolute equivalence in every area.

You will have noticed that there are an increasing number of heterosexuals who think that marriage is a somewhat outmoded institution in the 21st century……

9. James from Durham

What do we think “marriage” is then, before we start asking if gay people can do it too? Legalised shagging? Maybe, 100 years ago. All the propery rights stuff is included in the Civl Partnership rules. If it is about creating a stable environment to raise kids, which is more reasonable now, then it really can’t be the same for gays, can it?

If it is about creating a stable environment to raise kids, which is more reasonable now, then it really can’t be the same for gays, can it?

Or people who are infertile, or where the female partner is past menopause… Or who simply don’t want to have kids. You might want to rethink that line of argument. Then, of course, there’s the fact that gay people may retain custody of children from previous heterosexual relationships, or that they can adopt.

@ Pagar and James from Durham,

*Sigh*. How depressing that, as often as these same poor arguments against marriage equality are rebutted, they keep cropping up.

You must both have not noticed that some straight couples are infertile, and cannot ‘by nature’ produce children. Shall we deny them a marriage, then? You must also not have noticed that gay couples can adopt, and use IVF, and that some already have children by previous, heterosexual relationships. More to the point, many straight couples choose to get married, to demonstrate commitment to one another publicly, but do not want to reproduce. The claim that marriage in the 21st century is still all about the children is simply rubbish.

“Perhaps the gay movement might do better to try to concentrate on what gay people want and what makes them happy rather than insisting on mimicking heterosexual mores and demanding absolute equivalence in every area.”

You have read that many people in the gay movement want marriage equality. Perhaps *you* would do better to listen to them, rather than assuming that they do not really want what they say they want.

I see Dunc beat me too it.

13. Shatterface

‘“Perhaps the gay movement might do better to try to concentrate on what gay people want and what makes them happy rather than insisting on mimicking heterosexual mores and demanding absolute equivalence in every area.”

It’s not about ‘equivalence’, it’s about ‘equality’ – and we are listening to what gay people want. As already suggested above, it only takes one homosexual couple to want this before you have to come up with a reason to deny them the right to marriage, not every homosexual in the country.

I wonder if the coalition would be persuaded to support it under the “simplifying legislation” promise they’ve made. Having two almost-but-not-quite identical recognised types of partnership, for which any change on the rules for one has to be explicitly made on the other, must cause an awful lot of confusion and extra verbiage in laws. The hurtful and unnecessary bureaucracy that it causes some trans people can go too.

I do think Labour went far too slowly on these issues during their 13 years in power. Any LGBT-equality legislation they did put forward got supported by just about all the Labour and Lib Dem MPs, and even a noticeable minority of the Conservatives. And yet even with all those easy passes they didn’t just go for fixing all the legislative problems at once – they went for an incrementalist approach more appropriate for needing every last ‘Aye’ vote to get a majority. So we’ve got this utterly unnecessary two-tier status, and we’ve got all the exceptions in the Equality Act that make it legal to harass LGBT people in contexts were racial or sexual or ablist harassment would be completely illegal, and so on. Now would be a very good time for Labour to say “We will fix all of this very quickly as soon as we get chance”

@ SP

You have read that many people in the gay movement want marriage equality. Perhaps *you* would do better to listen to them, rather than assuming that they do not really want what they say they want.

I hear what the gay movement says and the opening line of my post states

There is no reason why any couple who wish to be legally married should not be able to be so

What I am suggesting is that the relentless drive by the gay movement to adopt heterosexual patterns of behaviour in a blind push for “equality” lacks imagination.

To argue that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are identical is just…. well…..stupid.

@ Shatterface

It’s not about ‘equivalence’, it’s about ‘equality

If we are talking about equality of treatment before the law, this is already available through civil partnerships and, as Nick rightly points out above, these need to be harmonised with civil marriages because they are the same thing.

If we are talking about the lack of equality in terms of being deprived of a religious marriage ceremony, that complaint should be directed at the churches.

we are listening to what gay people want

We are certainly hearing what some gay people say gay people want.

As with heteros, I suspect some gay people want to be married, some want to be single, some want to live with a partner and others don’t. Also, some like to talk openly about their sexuality and others prefer not to do so.

And they should all be free to do as they wish.

And they are potential Labour voters are they?

Yes, actually many are. Labour has a big socially conservative economically left-wing constituency.

@ Pagar:

“What I am suggesting is that the relentless drive by the gay movement to adopt heterosexual patterns of behaviour in a blind push for “equality” lacks imagination.”

Seriously, your whole train of thought is utterly bizarre. The bottom line is this. Some gay people (I do not say ‘all’) want to get married. They want equality under the law. They apprehend that a law that treats them differently implicitly treats them as inferior. And what is your problem with this? Do we reject these demands because they are not sufficiently *imaginative*? Equal status and respect may sound boring and unimaginative to you, but for many people they are sorely missed.

“To argue that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are identical is just…. well…..stupid.”

In the respects that matter before the law, they are identical. End of.

@ SP

You seem to be spectacularly missing my point.

Some gay people (I do not say ‘all’) want to get married. They want equality under the law. They apprehend that a law that treats them differently implicitly treats them as inferior. And what is your problem with this?

Nothing whatever. To repeat. I agree.

There is no reason why any couple who wish to be legally married should not be able to be so

My point is that some in society are beginning to free themseves from the invisible bonds that the traditional heterosexual marriage represents and are living lives coloured by more disparate and imaginative relationships.

Meanwhile the gay movement sees green grass in heterosexual marriage and is insisting on the right for gays to be equally enslaved by legally mandated monogamy.

Just seems bizarre.

It’s like complaining that only asylum seekers get to live in a detention camp. 🙂

I’ve removed the reference to Boris Johnson supporting gay marriage. Apparently Boris got confused, and doesn’t want to go further than civil partnerships

I am in favour of equal conjugal rights for gay and straight people, but for me this should include the right for straight people to have a civil partnership.

I hate the institution of marriage and all it stands for and I just dont understand why gay people want to partake in it… I wish gay and hetero and LGBTQ people were more unified in demanding civil partnership rights for everyone and working towards making marriage the obsolete institution that it bloody well should be by now.

If gay marriage was introduced, would churches be allowed to wed straight couples but refuse gay couples? Wouldn’t this contravene equality legislation? Stonewall have implicitly suggested that eventually churches may be forced to obey such anti-discrimination legislation (…presumably it will also be made illegal for churches to refuse to ordain gay clergy).

23. Matt Munro

I don’t get this. Gay people wanted the right to get married but without the religious connotations – leaving aside the fact that its been possible to get married without going anywhere near a church or a vicar for decades – so the civil partnership was enacted to meet that need. Now they want to get married ? What is the difference ?

24. Matt Munro

@ 20 “civil partnership rights for everyone and working towards making marriage the obsolete institution that it bloody well should be by now.”

You don’t make anything obselete, at best you are just rebranding the same insitution, at worst you just replace one institition with another

25. Chaise Guevara

“Gay people wanted the right to get married but without the religious connotations”

Inaccurate. Gay people wanted the right to get married. What individual gay couples feel about God and all that is by-the-by.

“leaving aside the fact that its been possible to get married without going anywhere near a church or a vicar for decades”

Um, not if you were gay.

“so the civil partnership was enacted to meet that need. Now they want to get married ? What is the difference ?”

It’s the whole ‘separate but equal’ thing: the fact that a distinction needs to be made implies that there is no equality. While a civil partnership is the same as a marriage in terms of rights and responsibilities, saying you can’t use officially use the word ‘marriage’ for a gay union is a deliberate snub. It was designed that way.

Also, seeing as those campaigning against gay marriage generally did it from a religious standpoint (all other standpoints that I can think of not being able to stand up to more than three seconds of scrutiny), it also reinforces the idea that ‘marriage’ is somehow the property of the religious community. It ain’t.

Don’t get me wrong, the difference between what it used to be like and the current situation was far, far greater than the difference between the current situation and the ideal, but it remains a studied insult to same-sex couple and gays and bis generally, not to mention an embarrassment to us as a country.

26. Chaise Guevara

…or, to put it more simply: why should they not be allowed to get married when other people can?

I don’t see why this is so difficult. Why can’t they just introduce a law stating that the terms ‘marriage’ and ‘civil partnership’ are completely interchangeable? That way people can choose to use which ever they please.

28. Chaise Guevara

“I don’t see why this is so difficult. Why can’t they just introduce a law stating that the terms ‘marriage’ and ‘civil partnership’ are completely interchangeable? That way people can choose to use which ever they please.”

Because they need to placate the haters. Seriously, that’s why. I seriously doubt that a large amount of MPs, especially Labour MPs, are against gay marriage. Calling it a civil partnership is a sop to appease people who don’t like the idea that people they disapprove of get the same rights as them.

29. Matt Munro

@ 25 I think compared to many other countries we are a model of liberation, try being gay in africa for example.

30. Chaise Guevara

“I think compared to many other countries we are a model of liberation, try being gay in africa for example.”

So our bigotry is ok because other people’s is worse?

30/Chaise: Absolutely. It’s the rule. You must fix all problems in a strict worst-first order, no matter how impractical that gets.

32. Chaise Guevara

“Absolutely. It’s the rule. You must fix all problems in a strict worst-first order, no matter how impractical that gets.”

LOL.

Yeah, I hate that logic: people who respond to complaints about UK civil liberties infringements by saying “for gods sake – ur not in china!!!!!!111”. Oh, that’s all right then, as long as someone’s worse off than me I’m happy…

HI Matt Munro
I am not that wild about civil partnerships either to be honest. But I still think the institution of marriage is loaded with connotations that civil partnerships aren’t, especially gendered ones. And the motives of gay people who want to share in that gender nightmare are not totally clear to me.

Gay people wanted the right to get married but without the religious connotations – leaving aside the fact that its been possible to get married without going anywhere near a church or a vicar for decades

There are a number of religious denominations which have absolutely no problem with gay people, and which would like to be able to perform marriages for their gay congregants. Why should they be prevented from doing so?

Two interesting legal points about having separate CPs and marriages is that the UK doesn’t, as far as I know, recognise marriages between same sex couples from the areas that perform them (Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain & Sweden). The other issue is that if one partner in a marriage or civil partnership has a sex change and they plan to stay together, they will be forced to separate and re-register their union as the other type since CP only recognises same-sex unions and marriage only recognises hetero-sex unions.

Lets roll them out soon.

36. Chaise Guevara

“Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain & Sweden”

Please tell me that’s not a complete list…

36: Pretty much, I think, unless you count a few of the US states (Massachusetts, Iowa, I forget which others but there’s not many).

Civil Partnership are colloquially known as, and considered by most people you’d pass in the street, marriages. People are surprised when you tell them they’re not equal. How hard could it really be to implement same sex marriage? Most people wouldn’t even notice the change in the system.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/dlEisx

  2. Laura

    RT @libcon: Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/dlEisx

  3. Axel Hotels

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/a7SnD0

  4. Soho Politico

    My first piece in yonks on @libcon: Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/cIqTRs

  5. Kaz Saringer

    RT @libcon: Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/dlEisx

  6. Jo Pastner

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy: Civil partnerships are not the same as marriage. And we w… http://bit.ly/a0pqjn

  7. Soho Politico

    So, any chance of a rethink on gay marriage @Ed_Miliband? http://bit.ly/a7SnD0

  8. Tom Holm

    RT @libcon: Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/dlEisx

  9. Web Master

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/cpjmBD

  10. Mike Smith

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/cpjmBD

  11. Jerry Limnent

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy: for those who are interested it might be worth reading a … http://bit.ly/a0pqjn

  12. QI Society

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/bqq18Q

  13. earwicga

    RT @libcon Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? http://bit.ly/cIqTRs < Excellent post

  14. GLBT World News

    Why not legalise gay marriage, Ed? | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/bxHOJU

  15. Soho Politico

    RT @libcon: Balls 1st to support gay marriage http://bit.ly/csFQLW <Finally. My earlier criticism of Ed M on this here: http://bit.ly/bxHOJU

  16. Matthew McGregor

    Will def be checking who is for marriage equality before voting, so this by @SohoPolitico is useful http://bit.ly/aqx2zo #labourleadership

  17. Exclusive: Ed B., Diane Abbott support gay marriage | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] on the issue but did not go as far as endorsing full support for gay marriage. He was later criticised for his […]

  18. sunny hundal

    In his interview with LC few months ago, he didn't go far enough and was criticised for it http://bit.ly/dlEisx





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.