Before we started planning our wedding, I didn’t know much about Civil Partnerships. I knew that legislation had been passed that afforded gay people the same legal rights as straight people following a ceremony, but I hadn’t given it much thought aside from that.
When we got the first bits of paperwork through from Kent County Council, I went on their website and looked up details about our ceremony. I was surprised to note that it specified that a Civil Partnership could only be between two people of the same sex. It hadn’t really occurred to me that this might be something only available to gay couples. After all, straight friends of mine have had Civil Marriage Ceremonies; what was the difference?
It was my nan who actually asked us that question. And I didn’t know the answer. So, like all good 21st Century gals, I turned to Google.
It turned out there wasn’t really a difference. We could still have a ceremony, although it wasn’t essential, and we would have all the same legal rights as we would if we were a straight, married couple.
But we couldn’t technically, officially say we were married.
When the legislation was introduced, in December 2005, there was still uproar from certain religious circles, despite the fact that the government had specifically avoided referring to this legal recognition of a relationship as a “marriage”.
What it boils down to is that the only significant difference between a Civil Marriage Ceremony and a Civil Partnership is religion. A Civil Marriage Ceremony may contain religious aspects. A Civil Partnership may not.
Now this was neither here nor there to us. We had no desire to include any religious aspects and there are plenty of beautiful secular readings out there to pad out your ceremony and reflect the way the two of you feel about your relationship.
It kind of bothered me. Bothers me. The only thing making us have to tick the “Civil Partnered” box, rather than the “Married” box on a form, is religion.
The UK government has announced plans to launch a consultation into gay marriage in March 2012 and this will be the first time any British government has actually considered full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. About bloody time, quite frankly!
I’m incredibly grateful that my wife and I (I’m probably not officially allowed to call her that, but really, “Civil Partner” is a fucking mouthful!) have been able to have a legally recognised partnership, but I do think it’s ridiculous that we’re not allowed to call it a marriage, lest we upset the poor, bigoted religious types*, who preach love and tolerance, but seem to struggle to put any of this into practice.
It’s about time we had real marriage equality in this country. As far as I’m concerned, I got married to my wife, but I’d quite like the law to recognise that too.
*It’s only fair to say that my ire is directed solely at the self-righteous, prejudice laden religious types, who I know are not representative of all religious people.