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As the gay, lesbian, bisexual (not such a dirty word… I’ll write about that another time) and transgender folk of Britain rejoice at the possibility of marriage equality coming into law sometime in the near future, there are a number of heterosexual people who are not so happy. Not for the obvious reasons you may be thinking of though.
We’re probably all aware of the not so enlightened individuals and institutions who fiercely oppose marriage equality, insisting it will tear apart the fabric of our society (as if a homosexual would tear any kind of fabric) and comparing ‘the gays’ to animals and paedophiles. That stuff stinks and I am quite vocal in my response to people like that, but what I am talking about here is the Equal Marriage Bill giving LGBT people the upper hand. If marriage equality comes into law it will mean that LGBT people will be able to get married as heterosexuals do. They will also be able to convert existing civil partnerships. Here’s the part that is angering some straight folk though; LGBT people will still be able to have a civil partnership if they prefer that option to marriage, but the bill does not include opening up civil partnerships to heterosexuals. Outrageous!
I must admit that I am in support of marriage and civil partnerships being open to all people, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. I say let all people have the opportunity to be happy/miserable (delete as applicable) in the way that they choose to.
I have spoken about this subject at length with a variety of people. I’ve chatted to work colleagues, family and friends, people at the LGBTQ support group I run, and even on the Beeb. The discussions have got heated or passionate on occasion and I caused outrage amongst BBC radio listeners when I voiced my opinions on there. What I have found is that while many straight people don’t really know what a civil partnership is, there are some who would actually like to have one. Not everybody believes in marriage, but would nevertheless like to make a commitment to their partner, whilst receiving the legal benefits that a civil partnership can bring.
So why can’t these poor heterosexuals have the same rights as the homosexuals? Apparently there’s not enough demand for it. With that response I have to ask what actually constitutes a big enough demand and also ask how these politicians know that there’s not enough demand for it. I know there was the equal marriage consultation in which people could air their views, and even though it doesn’t represent the population as a whole, 61% of the respondents said that they support making civil partnerships available to opposite-sex couples.
One person who has been very vocal about marriage and civil partnership equality is the fantastic Peter Tatchell. I know he is someone who divides people’s opinions, and I am aware that he can go on a bit, but the world needs more people like him and I’m a big supporter. In February 2011, as part of his Equal Love campaign, Peter organised a legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights so that same-sex marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships could be allowed. Peter believes that the legal case prompted our government to get a move on with the marriage equality that they are proposing.
One thing that Peter Tatchell thinks is that the issue isn’t about the amount of people who want to get married or have a civil partnership; it’s about all people having the same rights and entitlements as each other. That is something that I completely agree with. Even if a million same-sex couples wanted to get married and only ten opposite-sex couples wanted to have a civil partnership, they should all be entitled to do what they want to do.
Personally, I want to get married and not be forced into a civil partnership. I also want my straight mates to be able to have a civil partnership if that’s what they want. Heterosexuals deserve equality too. So, Mr Cameron, can you and your cronies do something about that please?