A setback for equality
Deplorable government scare tactics & veiled threats
Doubtful claims re costs & possible delays to bill
London – 20 May 2013
“The defeat of opposite-sex civil partnerships is, hopefully, only a temporary setback for equality. The government never wanted them. It used scare tactics to frighten MPs into voting to maintain discrimination against straight couples. Although a review has been agreed, it is unnecessary. More than 60% of the public support civil partnerships for everyone, gay and straight,” said Peter Tatchell, coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, which has spearheaded the movement for same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships.
Commenting on the defeat of MP Tim Loughton’s amendment on allowing heterosexual civil partnerships, Peter Tatchell added:
“Maria Miller could have easily supported an amendment to legalise straight civil partnerships on the condition that their implementation would be delayed until the details were worked out. She chose not to do so.
“The government’s argument that civil partnerships for heterosexuals would cost too much is unseemly. You can’t put a price on equality. When it comes to equal rights, cost should not be a factor. In any case, the costs would be even higher if the straight couples who want to have a civil partnership had a civil marriage instead.
“The government’s claim that this reform would cost £4 billion has been exposed by The Guardian newspaper as not being based on proper research. It is basically just a guess.
See here: http://bit.ly/18cRQaJ
Equally, it is not true that implementing straight civil partnerships would take two years. Estimates suggest it could take a mere three months if civil servants gave it serious attention.
“Heterosexual couples have a right to a civil partnership. Banning them is wrong. This issue is all about equality. Just as gay couples should be allowed to marry, straight couples should be permitted to join together in a civil partnership. There should be no discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law
“Both the Tory government and the Tory rebels reject full equality. They have double standards on civil partnerships and civil marriages.
“David Cameron supports equal marriage for gay couples but opposes equal civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. In contrast, the Tory rebels reject same-sex marriage but are demanding opposite-sex civil partnerships. Both sides are inconsistent, hypocritical and wrong.
“Stonewall, which used to say its guiding principle is equality, has backed the government in refusing to support heterosexual equality in civil partnership law.
“While I applaud David Cameron for standing firm on equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, I am shocked that he is opposing the right of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership.
“In the Netherlands, civil marriages and civil partnerships are available to all couples, gay and straight. A majority of civil partnerships are between heterosexual men and women.
“If civil partnerships were made available to straight couples in the UK there would probably be a similar significant take up.
“Some straight couples don’t like the sexist, patriarchal traditions of marriage. They’d prefer a civil partnership. They regard them as more modern and egalitarian. Why shouldn’t they have the option of civil partnership?
“This issue is not about numbers. It is about equality. Even if only a handful of straight people wanted a civil partnership, they are entitled to have one.
“My four decades of human rights activism have been based on the principle of equality. I cannot accept the idea of equal rights for gay couples but not for heterosexual couples.
“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. Straight men and women also deserve equality.
“Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to all couples, without any sexual orientation discrimination.
“The Equal Love campaign has a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which is challenging the UK’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. See here: http://bit.ly/xJumfO
“This legal case has, in part, prompted the government to legalise same-sex marriage. We are likely to win.
“Our submission was drafted by the human rights advocate and European law specialist, Professor Robert Wintemute of Kings College London,” said Mr Tatchell.
- Peter Tatchell is Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.