It’s been a few weeks since the second reading of the Same Sex Marriage Bill (Bill 126) and the 400-176 vote in favour. A few weeks since the furore caused by the bill, the verbal battles in parliament, the written battles in the comments sections of the online press and various blogs, and the church, battling anything and everything that doesn’t suit or fit in with their worldview. The loudest shouts appearing to come from the religious factions, espousing the end of society as we know it (because gay couples cannot naturally produce children), the demise of family values, the end of religious freedoms, and the death of marriage as a religious institution.
Well, I’m still waiting. Waiting for this vote to bring about the end of society as we know it. Waiting for the sky to fall, all heterosexual marriages to instantly fall apart and newborn children to suddenly turn feral. The world is still turning, the sun still shining (although, living in Britain, we can’t be one hundred percent sure of that. It’s the clouds you know), people go about their normal business and the children play. So, what’s it all about?
First, a little background, and why this affects me. I am a transsexual woman. This means that I am a woman who was unfortunately born with a male body. I am in transition, meaning I am going through the process to change my natal body to match my natal mind. I have a female partner whom I love and we are getting married soon. One minor problem. If we marry now, without my Gender Identity Certificate and amended Birth Certificate, I would be legally male and our marriage would be recognised in law. If I had my amended BC, it wouldn’t. I would have to enter into a Civil Partnership. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this. CP’s have the same legal rights as marriages, it enables us to show our love and commitment, what’s not to like?
It may seem minor but a Civil Partnership is not a Marriage. It has the same legal standing but its name, and any reference to it, implies separation, division and inequality. David Lammy (Labour MP, Tottenham), put it best:
“Let me speak frankly: separate but equal is a fraud. It is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. It is the motif that determined that black and white people could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.”
Civil Partnership was never a permanent measure. It was intended as a stopgap measure to enable the government to prepare the way for same-sex marriage. To continue with CP would be to continue with a type of semi-visible segregation that has no place in this society, the lessening of a segment of the population. There have been many people saying of marriage: “it’s just a word”. Yes it is, but in our society, human society, words give meaning to events, situations. Words have a power that most people don’t recognise. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” we are taught as children, so that the bully’s words will have no power over us. But as we grow, the saying changes, the words become powerful again. If misused they can hurt. They can sometimes kill. Marriage is not Civil Partnership, nor is Civil Partnership a Marriage. They are separate, apart, despite being the same underneath, and too many people use that sameness, the legal equivalence, to justify having this separation, and when the government dares to introduce same sex marriage to replace civil partnership, there is uproar. Even though, allegedly, they are the same, just the wording has changed.
So I ask, where does introducing same-sex marriage demean opposite-sex marriage? It doesn’t. It simply removes an inequality that shouldn’t be there. It is a legal update that doesn’t have to impact on religious institutions. The government has put safeguards in place so that religious institutions that do not want to perform same-sex marriages don’t have to without fear of reprisals, legal or otherwise. I’ve never felt the desire to get married in a religious setting so they are quite safe there, but I do want to legally cement my relationship with my partner and still be able to call it marriage. Doing so will not demean the marriages of my parents, my cousins, my friends or anybody else. It will not ruin society, it will improve it. It will, in some small way, prove that we, as a society, can grow, learn, change for the better. It will prove that our civilisation can actually fulfil the definition of the word.
I’m not a religious person but, if God does exist, I think he’d be happy with that.