Current Affairs

Two weeks remain for public consultation on marriage equality in England and Wales

Stephen Gray May 31, 2012
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Two weeks remain until the government’s consultation on how to introduce marriage equality for gay couples closes, prompting final calls for responses from gay and trans people as well as straight allies.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told today it was “urgent that more LGBT people and their straight friends register their support for marriage equality on the government website”.

“So far, we are outnumbered by opponents of same-sex marriage. This is disastrous. We’ve only got two weeks to reverse this imbalance.

Mr Tatchell’s website includes a model submission which can be sent in response to the consultation.

He continued: “It is very important that we make submissions supporting equality for all.

“The Equal Love campaign is urging the government to legalise same-sex civil marriages, opposite-sex civil partnerships and religious same-sex marriages by clergy who wish to conduct them.

“Any individual minister of religion licensed to conduct marriages should be free to perform a same-sex marriage in their place of worship, if they wish to do so. Church leaders should not be allowed to dictate that willing clergy should be banned from marrying lesbian and gay couples. It should be a matter for individual clergy and their conscience.”

The government does not currently propose to allow religious marriages at all, which have been called for by some religious bodies. It is also not proposing to open civil partnerships up to straight couples, both issues which can also be addressed in the consultation online.

A poll of readers this month found that only 2 percent supported a system in which gay and straight couples could marry but civil partnerships were only available to gays.

98 percent said they believed gay and straight couples should have the same options available to them, either by only having access to marriage or by both having access to marriage and civil partnerships.

James Lattimore, co-founder of the Coalition for Equal Marriage said: “Time is running out to complete the government’s consultation on equal marriage. So if you’ve been meaning to do so, but haven’t for whatever reason – you’d best get on the case!”

Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, which also has a guide to completing the consultation on its website, said today: “Opponents of this modest proposal have compared same-sex relationships to bestiality, child abuse and polygamy. That sort of vitriol means it’s essential that every single person who supports equality makes his or her voice heard.

“Thousands of bigots are doing everything they can to wreck this final step towards full equality for 3.3 million gay people in England and Wales. If you support equal marriage, it’s not enough to just talk or tweet about it. Responding to the consultation takes less than five minutes, but it could improve millions of people’s lives forever.”

Two weeks ago, the UK’s leading LGBT media outlets wrote publicly to readers on the “very short, but historic, opportunity to help the government introduce same-sex civil marriage in England and Wales”.

The letter spoke of equal marriage laws sending a “powerful message to everyone in Britain and the wider world: That lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are no longer second-class citizens and should be treated like everyone else.”

The Out4Marriage campaign was also launched earlier this month and has seen video messages in favour of equal marriage from the home secretary Theresa May and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, the shadow chancellor Ed Balls, the leader of the Green party Caroline Lucas, Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone and the founder of the Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson and many members of the public on why gay couples should be allowed to marry equally.

The Home Office consultation can be completed here.

More: equal marriage, Gay, gay marriage, LGBT, marriage equality, Marry, Peter Tatchell, Stonewall

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