Civil Partnerships for heterosexuals too!

IT’S FEBRUARY. It’s cold, it’s miserable… it’s time to be as divisive as possible. Let’s talk about gay marriage! Come March 29th, the UK will join much of the rest of the sensible world in allowing homosexuals the matrimonial bliss they have so been craving. To be honest – as divisive as I’d like to be, I can’t say I’m against this in any way.

Recently married couples leaving Seattle City Hall

Recently married couples leaving Seattle City Hall

What I will say though, is that if we’d gotten civil partnerships right from the beginning, none of this would have been a problem. You see, my problem is not, in fact, with gay people themselves; there are some I like and some I don’t; it’s exactly the same for straight people, cats and airlines. I don’t think I should really feel the need to fly the “I have black friends” flag too high, just so long as it’s understood that this view has come of plentiful discussions around tables of straight men drinking Cosmos and gays drinking Brains extra cold.

What I do have a problem with is marriage today and what we, as a society, have done to it. In fact, just to preface this; when we do indeed move forward with gay marriage, I think some sort of apology from the straight community to the LGBT one, considering the state of marriage and what we’ve done to it, would go down nicely. Marriage, to me, is not so much a farce as some people see it, although the divorce statistics are still worrying. With the average marriage only expected to last 32 years in the UK, we shouldn’t be celebrating that the rate of divorce has dropped below 50%; we should still be unhappy that it’s at 42%. The real reason for my lament is that I just simply don’t see any marriage as necessary for a normal happy life. In my mind, I separate marriage from legality: for me, this is where we have principally gone wrong. As I see it, marriage should consist of a ceremony before your chosen deity; be it God, God, God or Yoda, followed by a legally binding civil partnership.

There are striking differences between the two though, which is what has led us to this ridiculous point where we have to debate, vote and decide on whether homosexual marriage is okay, which of course it is; but for anything to become a law these days, it needs to be debated for a year or so. So in order for gay people to have the same rights to pension sharing, marital recognition abroad, improved rights for dissolution (adultery is not a valid option for ending a civil partnership, as it is with marriage, apparently) and the ability to remain anonymous on forms which stipulate separate tick boxes for both ‘Marriage’ and ‘Civil Partnership’ we require much conflated debate. My problem then, is not with the gay community, but with some reactionary toffs and their idea of religion.

Separating religion from the term marriage is a long lost fight, though what the Church cannot seem to get its head around is that marriage is no longer just about declaring your love in front of the omnipotent; it’s about rights and money too, and we’ll not find terminology to suit both. The initial issues facing gay marriage are pretty much solved in the UK; come the end of March. But my gripe with the issue I raised is still niggling; if we’d have just gotten something akin to civil partnerships with equal rights of marriage for all, even heterosexuals, well… boy wouldn’t that be a world.

With an opinion such as mine, I do have to acknowledge my own unique situation, in the hope that you may understand, at least partly, where I’m coming from. It may not take a genius to guess that I’m from what the media happily like to term, a “broken home”. I say unique though, because I never had the opportunity to remember my parents ever being together at all; a “pre-broken home” if you will, and I’m still pretty certain neither me, nor my sister, were a mistake. My parents just stopped being together, yet they still see each other regularly and my father has been unbelievably supportive of all of us. For this reason, my gripe with marriage itself should be evident. Nobody needs to be married to be happy. Nobody needs to be married to raise well-rounded, successful kids. For that reason, I would argue that nobody needs to be married to warrant the kind of tax breaks and recognition that married people are afforded. But obviously, there needs to be some institution of record, like marriage. Therefore, should I get married, I’ll be wearing the same suit I’d visit my accountant in, happy?