U.K. Marriage Equality Bill Introduced This Week – What Will It Do?


Posted on January 26th, 2013 by Katherine Franke

BThis week the British government introduced a bill into Parliament that would allow same-sex couples to marry.   While the bill may signal progress on the issue of marriage equality in Britain, some details about the bill and the circumstances surrounding it are worth noting:

- Britain now has a civil status called “Civil Partnerships” which is available only to same-sex couples.  A complaint was filed in the European Court of Human Rights in February of 2011 challenging not only the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage but also the exclusion of different-sex couples from Civil Partnerships.  This is unlike any ligation (to my knowledge) in the U.S. challenging the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in states that also exclude different-sex couples from civil unions or domestic partnerships. Even if the Marriage Bill passes, at a minimum there will remain live claims in the ECHR case relating to the sexual orientation discrimination experienced by different-sex couples in their access to Civil Partnerships.

- The new Marriage Bill would create marriage equality (sort of) for same-sex couples, while leaving in place the civil partnership inequality for different-sex couples.

- The new law would allow same-sex couples who are now in Civil Partnerships to convert their partnerships into marriages, but when they do so their marriages will be post-dated to the date upon which they entered the Civil Partnership (“the resulting marriage is to be treated as having subsisted since the date the civil partnership was formed.”).

- The new law enables married individuals wishing to change their legal gender to do so without having to end their marriage.

- The new law does not abolish Civil Partnerships, as have some laws in the U.S. granting marriage equality to same-sex couples, but rather, as Robert Wintemute from Kings College London wrote me the other day, “treats civil partnership as an inferior institution from which same-sex couples are being offered the option of liberating themselves.”

- The law is FULL of unnecessary references to religion.  As Robert Wintemute explained it: “It is shocking to read all the special rules regarding the Church of England, the Church in Wales, “the usages of the Society of Friends (commonly called Quakers)” and “the usages of the Jews”.”  The Bill allows any religion, including 3 of the 4 named religions (the Quakers, any branch of Judaism, and the Church in Wales), to “opt in” to marrying same-sex couples.  All except the Church of England.  It will take another Act of the UK Parliament to permit the Church of England to marry same-sex couples.  This is the “protection” against “the threat” of having to marry same-sex couples (in fact, against liberal tendencies inside the religion) that some members of other religions envy.  For example, the Muslim Council of Britain has asked for the same “protection,” explained here.  As Wintemute wrote me: “I would prefer the French system in which legal marriage and religious marriage are completely separate, or a rule that religious organisations applying for legal authority to marry couples must be willing to marry all regardless of sexual orientation.”

Those who want to read more about the bill can read a factsheet, short guide, a mythbuster, and a press notice.

 

Add a comment


Comments are subject to moderation and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Columbia Law School or Columbia University.

FEATURED POSTS

CATEGORY CLOUD

"Homeland" Security Abortion Rights Adoption adultery Alien Tort Claims Act Asylum Bankruptcy BDS Bullying Census Politics Children Citizenship Civil Unions Columbia Law School Compulsory Marriage Condoms Contraception Cordoba House Criminal Law Cures for Homosexuality Defense of Marriage Act Disability Rights Discrimination Divorce Domestic Partnership Domestic Violence Domestic Workers Don't Ask Don't Tell Economic Justice Education Egypt Elections Employment Discrimination ENDA Estate Planning Events Family Law Fellowships femininity Free Speech Gender and Technology Gender Identity Discrimination Gendering the Economy GSL Online Haiti Hate Crimes Health Care Hilary Clinton Hillary Clinton HIV HIV Discrimination Homelessness Homophobia Housing Human Rights Identity Politics Illegitimacy (sic) Immigration Reform In-ing Incest India International Law Islamophobia Israel Justice Sotomayor King & Spalding Labor Trafficking Land Reform Law School Legal Profession Legal Scholarship Lesbian & Gay Parenting LGBT Parenting Marital Status Discrimination Marriage Masculinity Medicaid Michelle Obama Migration Military National Security Obama Administration Obama Appointments Outing OWS Palestine Parenting Pinkwashing Policing Politics of the Veil Polyamory Popular Culture Pornograpy Pregnancy Presidential Politics Prisons Privacy Products Liability Profanity Prop 8 Prosecutorial Discretion Publications Queer Theory Queer vs. Gay Rights Race and Racism Racial Stereotyping Rape Religious Fundamentalism Reproductive Rights Reproductive Technology Romania Rwanda Sartorial Commentary Schools Sex Discrimination Sex Education Sex Stereotyping Sexting Sex Trafficking Sexual Assault Sexual Duplicity Sexual Harassment Sexual Health Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Sexual Orientation Discrimination Sex Work SMUG Sodomy Law Reform Sports Supreme Court Surrogacy Technology Title IX Trafficking Transgender Uganda Uncategorized Violence Women and Poverty Women of Color Zimbabwe

Academic Calendar  |  Resources for Employers  |  Campus Map & Directory  |  Columbia University  |  Jobs at Columbia  |  Contact Us

© Copyright 2009, Columbia Law School. For questions or comments, please contact the webmaster.