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Today's the day! Since midnight same-sex couples have been marrying in England and Wales. To mark the event, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has written a piece for the LGBT newspaper Pink News. Many Kos readers may find what he says quite extraordinary from a Conservative who has arranged for the rainbow flag to be flown over the Cabinet Office today. Here are a few extracts within the three paragraph limit which give a flavor.

This is something that has been very important to me. I have been so lucky to find the most incredible lifelong partner in Sam and our marriage has been a very special part of the commitment we have made to each other. Of course any marriage takes work, requires patience and understanding, give and take – but what it gives back in terms of love, support, stability and happiness is immeasurable. That is not something that the State should ever deny someone on the basis of their sexuality. When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.

[Just to clarify; "Sam" is David Cameron's wife, Samantha]

The introduction of same-sex civil marriage says something about the sort of country we are. It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay. That is so important in trying to create an environment where people are no longer bullied because of their sexuality – and where they can realise their potential, whether as a great mathematician like Alan Turing, a star of stage and screen like Sir Ian McKellen or a wonderful journalist and presenter like Clare Balding.

Cameron then pays tribute to those who helped bring the day about including Peter Tatchell, a fierce political opponent on the left. He goes on:
Together we should be proud to live in a country judged to be the best place to live in Europe if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. But we should equally be far from complacent about the challenges that remain – and I am just as committed as ever to working with you to challenge attitudes and stamp-out homophobic bullying and hate crimes.
Cameron has also tweeted:
Congratulations to the gay couples who have already been married - and my best wishes to those about to be on this historic day.

What's perhaps guaranteed to blow the minds of the conservatives in the USA is the new wording to be used at all marriage ceremonies, one of the administrative changes consequent on the new law. These (.pdf) are three "scripts" suggested by a London Borough for couples to choose from when deciding on their vows but certain parts are "standard". The celebrant now asserts:

Before you are joined together in marriage it is my duty to remind you of the solemn and binding character of the vows you are about to make.

Marriage in this country is the union of two people, voluntarily entered into for life, to the exclusions of all others.

Not, "a man and a woman".

The rest of the diary is a bit of background on the current situation which may be of interest.

Some couples in the UK will not be able to marry. Those living in Northern Ireland have been able to enter into Civil Partnerships and this will continue however to marry they will have to go to another part of the UK. The marriage nevertheless is valid in NI and they have the same rights there.

Those already in civil partnerships cannot currently marry. This is one of the administrative consequences of the new law which delays the full implementation. There are provisions to simply convert a civil partnership into a marriage however this is not mandatory. Also complicating are the few transgender couples who were married, one underwent gender re-assignment (therefore automatically dissolving the marriage) and the couple subsequently entered into a civil partnership but they now wish to marry. They, justifiably, wish to have their relationship regarded as a continuing marriage. Regulations on at least the conversion of civil partnerships is due before the end of the year. Couples will have the choice of holding a new ceremony or a simple change of paperwork.

Marriages in Britain are all recorded in the Register (of Births, Deaths and Marriages) maintained by the local borough of city's Registrar. A form is signed by the partners, two witnesses and the Registrar or his deputy. Civil weddings are held either in the local Registry Office or in an "appointed place". This can be anywhere suitable to be licenced (for a minimum period during which them must be available for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies). This can include such places as a pod on the London Eye but more usually a hotel or stately home.  

In the case of weddings held as religious ceremonies, the officiating priest etc acts as a deputy Registrar. No religious organization can be forced to hold a same-sex wedding and (for constitutional reasons), the Church of England General Synod must request permission to hold same sex-marriages.

Same sex couples only can continue to enter into Civil Partnerships. These carry much the same legal rights as marriages however there are some differences. These continue to cause some inequalities between same sex married couples and others.

One particular area yet to be addressed (although a review is mandated in the legislation) is that of pensions. In terms of state (national) benefits all are covered by the same regulations however private pensions can be very different. As an example; I have a local government pension. In the 1980s, the scheme recognized that same-sex survivors of contributors should be eligible for a "survivor's pension" on their death, in the same way a widow would receive one, if they were dependent on the deceased pensioner.  The benefits would however only be counted from the date they made the decision. This meant somebody retiring in 2005 after 40 years, their widow or widower would get benefits based on the full 40 years' contributing but a same-sex partner only about half. Civil partners now automatically get the survivor's pension but still on the reduced rate. Full equality means that legislation will have to make the various insurance companies and pension schemes give full benefits to survivors. The mandated review will look into this aspect.

Pensions also enter into another difference between civil partnerships and marriages. Partnerships can be dissolved in a relatively simple process of declarations. Marriages however have to be legally dissolved by divorce and there are provisions to protect the financial interests of the partners. This can include the division of any pension benefits accrued during the marriage - it makes provision for future maintenance. Also of course the children of any marriage have to be considered and the arrangements for child maintenance etc written into the divorce settlement.

Still, it all makes work for the lawyers :-)

Originally posted to Lib Dem FoP on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossacks for Marriage Equality and LGBT Rights are Human Rights.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:05:28 AM PDT

  •  The Episcopal Church in the United States of (9+ / 0-)

    America (ECUSA) has been marrying same sex couples for years. At our last General Convention, we even adopted a new rite for same sex marriages. It is, like all Anglican documents, particularly beautiful and a Bishop whispered to me that straight couples would like to have their weddings under our new rite.

    Being partly British by heritage, I'm very proud of what has transpired.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:55:18 AM PDT

  •  Why did the government do this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bythesea

    Why would a conservative government enact the opposition party's agenda? Was it because they just want the issue to disappear before the next election?

    •  "the opposition party's agenda?" (4+ / 0-)

      Don't confuse the UK's political situation with the political spectrum and dynamics of the United States.

    •  Because it wasn't (6+ / 0-)

      Pink News questioned all three party leaders before the 2010 General Election about equal marriage and these were their responses:

      Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat Leader and now Deputy PM):

      Yes, 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.
      David Cameron (Conservative and then Leader of the Opposition):
      I am so glad that we now have civil partnerships. They have helped remove discrimination and have given gay people the rights that they deserve. I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I’m open to changing things further to guarantee equality. But I also accept there are some gay people who want civil partnerships to be a distinct status from marriage. Whatever view you take, I think we should support any arrangement which is built on shared love and commitment, which is why we would give a tax break to both married couples and those in a civil partnership.
      Shortly after the Conservative Party's Equality Manifesto included:
      (the Conservatives) “will also consider the case for for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage."
      on the other hand Gordon Brown, then Prime Minister who resigned both the position and his leadership of the Labour Party when defeated in 2010 stated:
      At the moment there’s a distinction drawn between civil and religious unions, and when civil partnerships were being introduced they took the same form as a civil union which a heterosexual couple would have. We later made it illegal to discriminate on partnership status – so it is illegal to treat someone in a civil partnership different to a married person. That makes no practical difference in terms of rights and responsibilities, but does recognise that religious groups have the right to a certain degree of self-organisation on questions that are theologically important to them, including on the question of religiously-sanctioned marriage. So the provision of ‘marriage’ as opposed to the provision of same-sex or heterosexual civil unions, is intimately bound up with questions of religious freedom.
      The Coalition Agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had some fairly woolly words about equality and a Commission was  set up to look at equal marriage (usually an excuse to "kick things into the long grass"). In 2012 there was a sustained campaign including a petition signed by Nick Clegg. The bill was passed on a "free vote" meaning there were no party whips, indeed members of all three parties voted against for various reasons including religious.

      So the premise of your question is wrong.

      "Come to Sochi, visit the gay clubs and play with the bears" - NOT a Russian advertising slogan.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 11:39:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What sort of yardstick do you use to measure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidincleveland

    a country or culture or society?

    TnR.

    .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 04:12:15 PM PDT

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