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The six ways gay marriage in England and Wales isn’t quite ‘equal’

LGBT rights campaigners are reminding those celebrating the same-sex marriage bill there is a lot more work to do to achieve full marriage equality
Are gay people getting equality or are they still getting a 'downgraded' form of marriage?

As England and Wales celebrates same-sex marriage soon becoming law, LGBT rights campaigners are reminding people it is not ‘equal marriage’.

It comes as both the House of Commons and House of Lords have given their approval to the bill, and are now awaiting to be signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says there are ‘six discriminatory aspects’ of the new legislation.

Consummation and Adultery

Among the several debates in the House of Lords, one of the most consistent was that lesbian sex is not defined as ‘consummation’ under British law.

‘Rightly or wrongly, the existing grounds for the annulment of a marriage - non-consummation and adultery - do not apply in the case of same-sex marriages,’ he said.

Church of England and Church in Wales Banned

Under the ‘quadruple lock’, ensuring no gay couple can force the Church of England and the Church in Wales from performing religious same-sex marriages.

Tatchell considers it to be discrimination, saying ‘even if they decide they want to’ they are unable to perform them.

Costs of Religious Same-Sex Marriages

The third point he considers to be a problem with the bill is the cost of registering premises for the conduct of religious same-sex marriages are much ‘harsher’ than opposite-sex couples.

‘In the case of shared premises, all other sharing faith organizations have to give their permission for the conduct of marriages involving LGBT people. In effect, they have a veto,’ Tatchell added.

Pension Rights

The human rights campaigner also says pension inheritance rights are fewer on death of a same-sex marriage spouse, with the surviving partner not entitled to inherit the full value of their pension if it began prior to 1988.

Despite this, ministers have pledged to look at eliminating any difference in the treatment of gay couples when it came to pension schemes.

Straight Civil Partnerships

One of Tatchell’s longest problems with the bill has been not opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

‘Straight couples continue to be banned from having a civil partnership, even though the government’s own public consultation on equal marriage found that 61% of respondents supported the right of heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership if they desire one. Only 24% disagreed.’

When asked about civil partnerships, equalities minister Maria Miller said the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was the wrong place to discuss them.

Trans Rights

And, despite the Lords suggesting an amendment to the bill giving equality to trans people, the Commons rejected it yesterday (16 July).
Tatchell said: ‘Trans people - especially those already in marriages or civil partnerships - get a raw deal.

‘Among other flaws, married transgender people will need their spouse’s written permission before they can get a gender recognition certificate. This amounts to a ‘spousal veto’ over a trans person’s life.’

Writing in a comment piece for Gay Star News earlier this year, Trans Media Watch’s Helen Belcher said: ‘Trans people I have spoken to support the principles behind the same-sex marriage bill being debated in parliament by an overwhelming majority, with caveats.

‘There are significant worries that, once again, trans people’s rights are being seen as secondary to other peoples’ concerns.

‘And that speaks volumes about the way trans people are still seen by policy makers.'

What's Next?

Queen Elizabeth II is expected to sign the same-sex marriage bill into law this week.

Scotland has just launched its legislation, with a debate and vote planned for October and November this year.

In Northern Ireland, every attempt to get it through the Assembly has so far failed.

While same-sex marriage in England and Wales has its problems, it is still a big step to full marriage equality.

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