The Lords of Orwellian Change

I’ve been taking a somewhat perverse delight in reading various articles about the Same Sex marriage debate in the House of Lords just lately. It appears, with the number of amendments being tabled, that many of the members have an inherent fear of change. These amendments even have a name now, “wrecking amendments”, specifically designed to wreck or seriously delay the SSM bill’s passage through Parliament. They also have one other thing in common. They seem to also be designed to place same-sex marriage below that of opposite-sex marriage, all the while maintaining the façade of equality.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has tabled an amendment to bring two tiers of marriage into play. This redefines opposite-sex marriages as “traditional marriages” and makes a distinction between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. The amendment states:

“nothing in this Act could take away the right of a man and woman to enter a traditional marriage. A ‘traditional marriage’ is one where the basis of the marriage is the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life, to the exclusion of all others.”

What concerns me about this is that nothing in the act takes away the right of opposite-sex couples to enter into a so-called “traditional marriage”. It merely extends the meaning of marriage to include same-sex couples, giving them the right to call their union a marriage. Lord Carey doesn’t even bother to give same-sex marriage a label, as if it is beneath him. Also, if it wasn’t so serious, the part about “voluntary union of one man and one woman for life”  would have me laughing, when you consider the divorce rate in this country (42% in 2010).

So, two tiers of marriage then? Both offer exactly the same vows, both have exactly the same status in law, both legally cement the relationship between two people who love each other, both have the same benefits but, if this distinction from Mr Carey were to go into the bill, one would become slightly more equal than the other. To paraphrase George Orwell’s character, Napoleon, in Animal Farm:

“All marriages are equal, but some marriages are more equal than others”

Another amendment, tabled by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, would allow straight couples to enter into civil partnerships. Why? Equality? CP’s were introduced because the SSM bill either wasn’t finished or the government of the day were too scared to bring it in, so they came up with Civil Partnerships.  CP’s were supposed to be equal in law but could never be called marriages. It was another example of discrimination masquerading as equality. So Lord Mackey wants to offer straight couples the ability to join Rosa Parks at the back of the bus? Or is it because same-sex couples had something that straight couples didn’t? Or is it something more insidious? Lord Mackey also went on to say that “marriage should be for natural procreation”. Is there a hint of something there or is my imagination reading something more than is being said? Giving opposite-sex couples who cannot have children a less than equal marriage, maybe?

Probably the most damaging amendment, though, is the call for a referendum on the SSM bill in 2015. This would mean that, even if the bill passed through all stages ready to become law, it couldn’t become law until voters approved it on 7th May 2015, at the earliest. Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I  don’t recall ever being asked if I wanted the country to join Europe, or being asked to vote on Universal Credit, or the Equality Act 2010, or any other bill which affects nearly everyone in this country to one extent or another, prior to them becoming law. So why is it so important that a bill, which will bring equality to a small minority of the country, leaving the majority unaffected, be voted on in a countrywide referendum? It isn’t going to cause the end of the world, nor is it going to cause the downfall of society, or cause a post-apocalyptic degenerative society to suddenly appear. Most countries who have introduced SSM seem to be getting on with things quite well, even the US states which now have it don’t seem to have broken down into chaos and disorder.

I can only hope that the Lords see sense and reject all of these ‘wrecking’ amendments and take another step toward a saner world.