The Government’s consultation on gay marriage has finally arrived today. Entitled ‘Equal civil marriage: a consultation’, it lays out the Government’s plans for how equal marriage will happen. The consultation document clearly states that the Government has already decided that these changes to marriage will go ahead. The foreword signed by the Home Secretary,Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equality reads:
‘We recognise that the personal commitment made by same-sex couples when they enter into a civil partnership is no different to the commitment made by opposite-sex couples when they enter into a marriage. We do not think that the ban on same-sex couples getting married should continue. Put simply, it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.
That is why we are, today, launching this consultation to seek your views on how we can remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage in a way that works for everyone. We are clear that no changes will be made to how religious organisations define and solemnize religious marriages and we are clear that we will retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples.
This is not about Government interfering in people’s lives, this is about providing choice for our modern society. Quite simply, if commitment and marriage is a good thing we should not restrict civil marriage only to opposite-sex couples.’
It is proposed that although civil partnership ceremonies will continue to be able to be held in religious premises, same-sex marriages will have to conducted in a civil ceremony, i.e. not in churches. Same-sex couples will be able to choose between civil partnerships and marriage. Heterosexual couples will not.
The Government is conducting a listening exercise over the next three months until June 14th, wanting to hear the public’s views via this online form. It is 16 questions long, although about half are solely aimed at gay people, and took me about 15 minutes to complete. It does give you some opportunity to make your views known.
I would urge you to fill in the form and tell the Government what you think, whatever your opinion is. The Government needs to be shown the strength of feeling over this issue and the need for it to take the public’s views seriously rather than just going ahead regardless of whether the public wants this change in marriage to actually go ahead or not.