Changes to civil partnership legislation retain discrimination

The News Letter is reporting the latest change to the UK’s marriage / civil partnership laws. Civil partnerships are to be allowed in churches and other places of worship: this had been forbidden under the original Civil Partnership arrangements.

From the News Letter:

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said: “The Government is committed to advancing equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and to ensuring freedom of religion or belief for all people,” she said in a written ministerial statement.
“To further both of these aims, the Government is committed to removing the legal barrier to civil partnerships being registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who choose to allow this to happen.”The move comes after an amendment was made in the last Parliament in the House of Lords to the Equality Act which removed the ban on holding civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises.

The Church of England has, however, warned that clergy should not provide services of blessing for same-sex couples.

A Church of England spokesman said: “If ministers have delivered what they said they would in terms of genuine religious freedom, we would have no reason to oppose the regulations.
“The House of Bishops’ statement of July 2005 made it clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships and that remains the position. The Church of England has no intention of allowing civil partnerships to be registered in its churches.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the group Christian Concern, said: “At Christian Concern we have no doubt about what will happen. Churches will inevitably be coerced into performing these ceremonies, and those that don’t will be vilified and sued.”

Despite these changes actual marriage of homosexual couples will still not be allowed: something Outrage’s Equal Love campaign continues to campaign on. They also object to the discrimination against heterosexual couples which prevents them from entering into a Civil Partnership: Peter Thatchell calls this “romantic apartheid.”

Even a change to allow heterosexual couples to become civil partners and homosexual couples to marry would, however, represent potential discrimination in favour of romantically / sexually linked individuals. The Christian Institute point to the fact that siblings cannot enter into a civil partnership and so gain the tax benefits which would be available to romantically / sexually linked couples. From the Christian Institute’s website:

For example, two elderly sisters live together for twenty years. One dies, and the other can’t afford the inheritance tax and has to sell the home they shared. A gay couple register their partnership. One dies after only a year and the other inherits a large property, tax-free.

Having largely abolished legal discrimination against homosexuals at least in so far as financial matters are concerned, discrimination has been created against other groups which seems to lack a logical basis in a supposedly tolerant society. That also leaves aside our permissive society’s continuing ban on incest between consenting adults and ban on legally recognising all party consenting polygamous marriages / civil partnerships: both are punishable by imprisonment.

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  • For once I completely agree with you, Turgon. (I think.)

  • HeinzGuderian

    Unfortunately there is still no ban in place on ‘gawd types’,poking their noses into other peoples lives.

  • Reader

    Back soon. I’m just off to have a word with my human rights accountant about entering into a polygamous, non-sexual, non-romantic civil partnership with everyone named in my will and everyone who has named me in theirs.
    Or – I suspect it will probably be sensible to keep a few restrictions on the tax allowances for civil partnerships.

  • lamhdearg

    or scrap inheritance tax.

  • I was initially tempted to dismiss this as either trolling or a Poe, but…

    I think this (and most modern discourse on marriage) is getting the problem the wrong way around. The problem is not that some groups are allowed to marry and others not, but that the state elevates one form of contract (marriage) above others, and subsidises through the taxation system those who enter into it at the expense of those who do not. From a libertarian point of view, what contracts I enter into of my own free will are none of the state’s business, beyond the basic requirements of legal redress. It is not the piecemeal extension of marriage to X, Y or Z marginalised group that we should be campaigning for, but its wholesale deregulation.

  • Jimmy Sands

    An absolutely logical approach would be to extend partnership law to the domestic sphere. Any number or combination of adults could declare themselves a unit for purposes of taxation and succession but simultaneously accepting liability for each other. Sleeping arrangements and preferences would be neither here nor there and churches could decide which such combinations to celebrate in their absolute discretion.

  • Framer

    It will never apply in Northern Ireland this side of a judicial review or a case at Strasbourg so local bigots can rest easy.

    Probably only the Unitarians and Quakers would offer the service anyway. The Church of Ireland is riven by the concept of partnered gay clergy and the Roman church is further behind regarding the whole thing as intrinsically disordered (where adults are concerned).

    The DUP veto on all such changes is absolute although that used on adoption for unmarried couples is likely to be overturned by the judicial review started by Monica McWilliams of NIHRC.

    Gay marriage and the lifting of the blood donor ban will not be introduced to our wee Ulster.

  • Jimmy,

    I’d like to see a logical justification of the very existence of partnership law. Marriage/partnership already has intrinsic advantages such as stability of income and economy of scale, as well as documented health and social benefits. If these aren’t sufficient reason for people to get married, why should we think tax bribery will make any difference?

  • Jimmy Sands

    Andrew,

    Would you similarly oppose business partnerships?

  • Jimmy,

    Good question. I’d certainly be interested to see the argument laid out, to see if there are any parallels.

  • Reader

    Andrew Gallagher: If these aren’t sufficient reason for people to get married, why should we think tax bribery will make any difference?
    I thought that the use of the elderly sisters in the original post was to show that tax concessions were a humane legal and financial response to a social arrangement. Referring to that as “tax bribery” is nearly as cynical as my first response.
    Exploitation of all those good intentions as a mere tax loophole would be a different matter. The problem is – where to draw the line?
    Speaking of which – “line marriage”.

  • Reader,

    If the intention is to spare an individual the iniquity of paying inheritance tax on their primary residence, then surely the correct response is legislation that addresses that issue directly, rather than taking a detour through civil partnerships and marriage, which only adds to the confusion.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Would equality legislation on this subject mean the lexicographers will be prosecuted for discrimination?

    Most dictionaries define marriage as: ‘the legal union or contract made between a man and woman to live as husband and wife’!

  • Taoiseach

    Framer, not allowing a civil partnership in your church doesn’t make you a “local bigot”. Do you have any understanding of what religious freedom is about?