Mike Weatherley, the Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, has pushed boundaries by urging the Prime Minister to completely reconsider the laws surrounding unions for same-sex couples in Britain.
As representative for an area with the highest proportion of gay couples in the country, Mike has regular discussions with constituents who have experienced discrimination in attempting to form a legal union. Until recently, religious venues were banned from holding Civil Partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples. Although the ban has recently been lifted, such venues can still turn away same-sex couples and no venues can perform full same-sex marriages. By writing to the Prime Minister, Mike wished to highlight that such behaviour would not be tolerated in any other situation.
Commenting, Mike said: “Discrimination in today’s society should not be tolerated. It’s distressing that so many countries around the world have appalling gay rights. As a supposedly civilised country, we should be pushing for a society where everyone is equal before the law. Quite simply, same-sex couples should have exactly the same marriage rights.”
In his letter, Mike said: “The Civil Partnership Act 2004 resulted in the introduction of Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples in December 2005. There was much debate at the time and the result was undoubtedly an uneasy truce between those wishing to preserve the religious significance of marriage and those fighting for equality. Lawmakers knew at the time that an inherent inequality would still be maintained even if greater equality was being afforded to same-sex couples.”
The full text of Mike’s letter to the Prime Minister is below:
RE: SAME-SEX UNIONS IN THE UK
I write as Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade; a constituency which falls entirely within Brighton & Hove, the city with the most same-sex households in the UK. Like many of my constituents, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the inequality which exists between the unions of same-sex couples and those of opposite-sex couples in this country.
As you are acutely aware, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 resulted in the introduction of Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples in December 2005. There was much debate at the time and the result was undoubtedly an uneasy truce between those wishing to preserve the religious significance of marriage and those fighting for equality. Lawmakers knew at the time that an inherent inequality would still be maintained even if greater equality was being afforded to same-sex couples.
Looking back, I am sure that you would agree that it was nothing less than bizarre that same-sex couples were barred from holding their Civil Partnership ceremonies in religious venues. After all, many religious groups welcome same-sex couples. I am glad that this was reviewed and welcome the change to the arrangement earlier this year as a logical and progressive step.
Several campaigns are currently calling for, variously, the creation of a right to a Marriage for same-sex couples and the creation of a right to a Civil Partnership for opposite-sex couples. Such proposals may seemingly be the next logical step in the campaign for equality but, if enacted, would still leave us with a messy compromise. As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality. Such behaviour is not be tolerated in other areas, such as adoption, after all.
I suggest that it makes little difference if unions are called Marriages, Civil Partnerships or some other term (such as simply ‘Unions’). Until we untangle unions and religion in this country, we will struggle to find a fair arrangement.
I thank you in advance for your views on the specific points within this letter.
MIKE WEATHERLEY MP