Isle of Man avoids segregation of English marriage law

London, UK – 24 November 2015

“The government of the Isle of Man plans to incorporate same-sex marriage within the island’s main marriage legislation, the Marriage Act 1984. It will not replicate the flawed and discriminatory same-sex marriage law that was enacted for England and Wales in 2013, which created two separate marriage laws – the previously existing 1949 Act for opposite-sex couples only and the new 2013 Act for same-sex couples only. Separate is not equal. One marriage law for everyone, as the Isle of Man proposes, is the right approach,” noted Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Mr Tatchell has written a letter of thanks to the Manx Chief Minister, Allan Bell MHK, congratulating him and his government on planning to avoid the legal segregation now inherent in English and Welsh marriage law. Copy below.

Also below is a copy of Mr Tatchell’s submission to the Isle of Man government’s public consultation on same-sex marriage. See the consultation guide and draft Bill.

Note: The Isle of Man is a self-governing British dependency, located in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, with its own parliament dating back over 1,000 years (the oldest continuous parliament in the world). A tiny island of 572 sq km, it has a population of 85,000 people.

Copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man

Chief Minister
Isle of Man

23 November 2015

Dear Allan Bell,

Congratulations and thanks re your same-sex marriage Bill

I was honoured to meet you at the Tynwald parliament building in July and very grateful that you were willing to consider my representations – echoing those of local Manx people – for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Isle of Man.

I am delighted that your government has now tabled a draft Bill to allow same-sex couples to marry. Ending discrimination in marriage law is an important, significant step towards social equality.

I am especially pleased that you have not followed the discriminatory example of England and Wales by proposing to legislate a separate, segregated marriage law for same-sex couples.

In England and Wales, we now have two different laws: the Marriage Act 1949 for opposite-sex couples and the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013. Separate is not equal.

I applaud the fact that the Isle of Man has not made this error and will not create the legal ‘apartheid’ of two distinct marriage laws, based on sexual orientation discrimination.

By proposing to include same-sex partners in the island’s main marriage law, the Marriage Act 1984, you will ensure one law for all – a major democratic principle.

Please accept my thanks and good wishes for the successful passage of this important equality legislation.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Key simple amendment required to end the ban on same-sex marriage in the Isle of Man:

Marriage Act 1984
Part 1 Restrictions on marriage.
Section 1 Marriage within prohibited degrees.
(1) A marriage solemnized between two people is void if –
Delete (a) they are of the same gender

Copy of Peter Tatchell’s submission to the Isle of Man government’s public consultation of same-sex marriage:

I am responding both in an individual personal capacity, as Peter Tatchell, and also in an organisational capacity on behalf of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Consultation Questions

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree that same sex couples should be able to get married?

We agree that marriage should be opened up to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The right to marry the person one loves is a fundamental human right, enshrined in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a democracy, everyone should be equal before the law, with equal rights and equal responsibilities. To deny same-sex couples marriage equality is discrimination, which is unjust and in contravention of their human rights. While we accept that some religious people oppose same-sex marriage, we do not believe they should have a right of veto over civil (non-religious) marriages in register offices and other licensed non-religious premises.

Question 2: If the Island is to have legislation to allow same sex marriage, do you have any comments on the general principle of basing the Island’s legislation on the legislation that applies in parts of the United Kingdom?

We do not support the Isle of Man adopting the England and Wales model of a separate marriage law for same-sex couples, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013. Creating this whole new legislative framework was not true equality and was a needlessly complicated and lengthy way of giving marriage rights to same-gender partners. It would have been far simpler and far fairer to repeal the legal statutes banning same-sex marriage in England and Wales and thereby open up the Marriage Act 1949 to same-sex couples. Short amendments to the 1949 Act could have achieved this objective and also provided the special exemptions from same-sex marriages sought by some religious organisations.

Question 3: Do you have any comments on the draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill that is provided in this document?

We support the Isle of Man legislating a single, inclusive marriage law – rather than a separate marriage law for same-sex couples. Separate laws are not equal laws. In other words, we support amending the Marriage Act 1984 to permit same-sex marriage.

We oppose the Isle of Man incorporating into its marriage law the transgender and pension discrimination that is enshrined in the England and Wales same-sex marriage legislation.

Question 4: Do you have any other relevant comments?

We thank the Chief Minister and his government for bringing forward legislation for marriage equality – and look forward to its enactment.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation