Sunday, 14 December 2014

Equal Marriage was never just about gay rights

Apparently number 10 Downing Street are about to ignore overwhelming support to a public consultation and block opening the right to carry out marriage to humanist celebrants in England and Wales.

This would have brought England and Wales in line with Scotland where since 2005 humanists have been able to marry mixed sex couples. It would also put them at the forefront along with only USA and Australia in having humanists able to carry out marriage at all. It is a sign that those of use who were fighting for marriage equality were not only thinking about it as a gay rights issue.

Sadly the Conservatives in Westminster have already diluted some of the aspects that the Liberal Democrats recognised when we formed policy on marriage equality in 2010 with relation to transgender people, so this is an attack on the other thread of what we understood and vote for in relation to equal marriage.

You see equal marriage isn't only about allowing same-sex couples to marry. It was about those people who are transgender not having to divorce or dissolve an exisiting marriage or civil partnership and not losing the years that before now would not count while they transitioned if their partner remained with them. It is about expanding who can carry out marriages further than the established church, to other denominations and faiths to also include humanists in our society. It is also about opening civil partnerships to those of mixed gender who do not want a marriage but want civil protections for their partner in the event of their death, life, illness or creating new birth.

Equal marriage is not just a gay rights issue. It is an equality issue.

The Conservatives just think it is about ticking one box but actually it is deeper than that and I am proud to have been part of the process to seek to give that equality to others when it does not affect me directly.

Note: This is what differentiates a humanist wedding from a mere civil ceremony


  1. It is not only Scotland that has humanist marriages already - Norway has had them for years and Ireland too has recently introduced them. Parts of the USA, Australia and New Zealand have a celebrant-based system open to humanists or anyone else who passes the general tests of acceptability.

    What was proposed for England and Wales was NOT a celebrant-based system (where the celebrant is licensed by the Registrar General, as in Scotland) - instead it was a proposal to put 'belief organisations' (such as the British Humanist Association) that pass a suitable range of tests in the same position as the churches and other religious bodies - that is, authorised to solemnise lawful marriages carried out by their own clergy or other appointed agents.

    The difference is that religious bodies are authorised by way of licensing their premises (churches etc). Humanists have no such premises: instead the proposal was to follow the precedent set by the law about Jewish and Quaker marriage, where it is the organisation that has the legal right to marry their own members without the place being specified.