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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 27, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 35
Civil partnerships? We must be equal before the law!
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Civil partnerships? We must be equal before the law!

by Peter Tatchell - Courtesy of OutRage!

A recent Pink News poll found that 98% of its readers believe that civil partnerships are not enough. They want full same-sex civil marriage.

The main U.K. Gay lobby group, Stonewall, does not call or campaign for marriage equality; claiming it is not a priority.

All other major LGBT groups oppose the ban on Gay marriage and want registry office civil marriages to be open to all couples, without discrimination.

The main issue is not whether same-sex marriage is a priority, but whether LGBT people should be banned from getting married. We should not be banned. Equality is the number-one issue. No LGBT organization claiming to support equal rights should remain silent and inactive while we are denied the right to marry. Such outrageous homophobic discrimination must be challenged.

Campaigning for marriage equality does not preclude us from also campaigning against homophobic bullying or for LGBT asylum rights. It is not a case of having to choose one campaign over another. It is possible to simultaneously push for equality on several fronts.

Nor is the main issue whether same-sex marriage is a good thing. I share the feminist critique. Marriage has a history of sexism and patriarchy. I would not want to get married. But as a democrat and human rights defender, I support the right of other LGBTs to marry, if they wish. I resent the fact that people are deemed ineligible to marry simply because they love a person of the same sex.

Every LGBT organization should be publicly backing the right of Lesbian and Gay couples to get married in a registry office on exactly the same terms as heterosexual men and women. Imagine the outcry if the government banned black couples from getting married and required them to register their relationships through a separate system of civil partnerships instead. Most of us would condemn it as racist to have separate laws for black and white people. We'd call it apartheid, like what used to exist in South Africa. Well, black people are not banned from marriage, but Lesbian and Gay couples are. We are fobbed off with civil partnerships.

Civil partnerships are not equality. They are a new form of discrimination. Separate is not equal. In terms of law, civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. They create a two-tier system of partnership recognition: one law for heterosexuals (civil marriage) and another law for same-sex couples (civil partnerships).

This perpetuates and extends discrimination. The homophobia of the ban on same-sex civil marriage is compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Just as a Gay couple cannot have a civil marriage, a straight couple cannot have a civil partnership. Two wrongs don't make a right. In a democracy, we should all be equal before the law.

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