Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 07:48 am
I missed what was apparently the highlight of Conference yesterday. Not Nick Clegg's speech (which was IMO good, if perhaps understandably serious and businesslike), but Ben Summerskill of Stonewall's assertion, at the DELGA fringe meeting, that marriage equality for same- and different-sex marriages would cost £5 billion to implement, and therefore we shouldn't do it. (I wasn't at the fringe, so this isn't an eye-witness report, but apart from the Pink News article I had a long chat with a friend who had come directly from the fringe and told me exactly the same thing.)

His reasons - that heterosexual couples might take up civil partnerships for increased pension payments and that same-sex platonic friends might get marries for tax breaks - are worthy of The Daily Mail. But let's just for a moment assume, for the sake of argument, that he's right. Let's assume that giving marriages and civil partnerships equal footing would cost £5 billion. Suddenly civil partnerships and marriages don't sound so equal any more, do they?

Edit: it strikes me that, as his examples involved different-sex couples supposedly gaining extra benefits under civil partnerships, he might have been trying to make a point to privileged people about how discrimination looks. If so, I think he was making it badly and, actually, I don't really believe he was being that subtle.

Edit 2: it occurs to me that the figure I heard last night was £5 million - I don't think it makes a difference to my basic point, but it's possible that Pink News's report has the wrong figure (but equally likely that the figure I heard last night was wrong).

Out of interest, the text of DELGA's motion (which both [personal profile] sashajwolf and I will be supporting today) is under the cut:

Conference notes that:
i) At present no two individuals of the same sex may enter into a marriage in the United Kingdom, and that no two individuals of mixed sex may enter into a civil partnership.
ii) Under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act (2004) any individual seeking gender recognition or to change their gender as legally recognised cannot remain in a marriage or civil partnership.

Conference recognises that:
a) The Deputy Prime Minister, and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, said in Pink News on 17th February 2010: 'I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another'.
b) The moves by the new coalition government to allow ceremonies for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender couples to be performed in religious buildings are very much welcomed.
c) Whether someone believes in marriage, civil partnership or commitment, any religious organisation or building whether a church, mosque or temple which chooses to have civil partnerships celebrated at their religious places of worship will be in the future able to do so.
d) To grant rights to one group of individuals which are denied to others based on sexual orientation and gender is unconscionable.
e) The current arrangements with regards to marriage are discriminatory in nature.
f) Non-UK same-sex marriages are currently equated to civil partnership in the UK, not marriage.

Conference believes that as stated in the preamble to the party's constitution, we 'exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community' and 'reject all prejudice and discrimination' including those issues which relate to gender and sexual orientation.

Conference therefore calls on the British government to:
1. Open both marriage and civil partnerships to both same-sex and mixed- sex couples.
2. To allow approved religious and humanist celebrants to legally solemnise and celebrate same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in places of religious worship.
3. To allow those individuals who wish to seek gender recognition or change their legally recognised gender to remain in their current marriage or civil partnership without changing any legal requirements.
4. To establish a simplistic process by which any existing civil partnership may be converted into a marriage or vice-versa without the need to dissolve the civil partnership or proceed with a divorce.
5. To automatically recognise all non-UK same-sex marriages as marriage in the UK, and to subsequently remove non-UK same-sex marriages from the current schedule which equates them to civil partnerships in the UK.
6. To continue to maintain the schedule equating non-UK same-sex civil unions or registered partnerships as civil partnerships in the UK.
7. To add non-UK opposite-sex civil unions or registered partnerships to the schedule equating them to Civil Partnerships in the UK.
8. To openly promote and encourage recognition of same-sex marriage and civil partnerships across the European Union, especially in countries where currently no laws exist.


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