Het couple’s campaign for civil partnership

// 26 November 2009

As I explained back in May, marriage isn’t something I would personally consider or feel comfortable entering in to. I do believe that people should have the opportunity to designate (an)other individual(s) as their legal partner(s), however, so I was delighted to read about Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman’s campaign to get a civil partnership, currently only available to same-sex couples. In their own words:

We have been together for three and a half years and would like to formalise our relationship. Because we feel alienated from the patriarchal traditions of marriage, we would prefer to have a civil partnership. As a mixed-sex couple, we are banned by law from doing so. By filing an application for civil partnership, we are seeking to challenge this discriminatory law.

Our decision is also motivated by the fact that we object to the way same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married. If we got married we would be colluding with the segregation that exists in matrimonial law between gay civil partnerships and straight civil marriage. We don’t want to take advantage of civil marriage when it is an option that is denied to our lesbian and gay friends.

Spot on! The gender restriction within marriage is also discriminatory towards trans people, who would currently find their marriage invalid should one partner in what was originally recognised as a heterosexual couple transition following the ceremony.

You can show your support for Tom and Kat on their facebook page, and there’s a Number10 petition you can sign calling for proper marriage equality.

Comments From You

Politicalguineapig // Posted 27 November 2009 at 3:49 am

Finally.. I personally hope for the day when all marriage is abolished.

polly // Posted 27 November 2009 at 9:34 am

“”The gender restriction within marriage is also discriminatory towards trans people, who would currently find their marriage invalid should one partner in what was originally recognised as a heterosexual couple transition following the ceremony””

This is correct Laura, however another way of looking at it is that it places trans people in exactly the same position legally as any other person of the gender they’ve transitioned to, in that you can’t be married to someone of the same legal gender. If an exception was allowed, it would mean that trans people could be married to a same gender partner when others can’t. So strictly speaking it’s not discriminatory as trans people are in the same position as everyone else of the same legal gender.

This is a big disadvantage for trans people who find, for example that their partners lose accrued pension rights, but all lesbians and gay men are in the same legal position.

gadgetgal // Posted 27 November 2009 at 9:40 am

@Politicalguineapig – tee hee! I agree with you myself, but I reckon my husband might be a bit miffed at that (ah well, tough!).

Seriously, though, I wasn’t bothered about marriage one way or the other so I figured I may as well because my partner wanted to. Unfortunately the whole thing is geared towards sexism – I sent a complaint to the local government about the notice of marriage (it’s what you have to do to get the license) because of the questions that were asked. Basically you not only have to provide proof of ID, you also have to (separately) answer questions about the other partner and his/her family. I realise it’s done to sort the real marriages from the fake ones (although why they think the false ones wouldn’t be prepared for that I have no idea) but the questions were appalling. They asked me what MY FATHER’S profession was and whether or not I knew what HIS FATHER’S profession was. Now, since both our fathers are retired, and in my partner’s case his mother has always been the major breadwinner in the family, why is this considered to be ok? And why has no one ever talked about this before? I didn’t know it was the case before I walked in the door, has it never bothered anyone else enough to mention it? And is it the same in civil partnerships?

I’m still awaiting a response and I complained in August – will have to follow it up and complain again.

Amy Clare // Posted 27 November 2009 at 11:33 am

I’m 100% in favour of this and really hope they are successful and set a precedent. I would love to have a civil partnership with my boyfriend; neither of us particularly want to get married because of all the patriarchal, religious and homophobic baggage it comes with.

Another CiF article about the couple here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/23/marriage-social-partnerships

Laura // Posted 27 November 2009 at 12:07 pm

@ Polly – I wasn’t suggesting a special exception should be made for trans people, rather that removing the gender restrictions would solve the discrimination they face, as well as that faced by cis straight and gay couples.

Denise // Posted 27 November 2009 at 12:13 pm

I think civil marriage and gay partnerships should be abolished in favour of a legal civil partnership applying to all couples regardless of whether they are gay, straight, trans, whatever. Of course the various religions could continue to have their own additional ‘icing on the cake’ (for want of a more appropriate phrase) ceremonies complete with all the patriarchal traditions they wanted to hang on to! But it would only be the all-inclusive civil partnership which had legal status.

Angelina // Posted 27 November 2009 at 12:40 pm

Het marriage is an incredibly sexist anachronism which really has no place in our society any more (not that it ever should have had any). To say the woman no longer has to be ‘given away’, promise to obey or wear a big white dress is like putting Savlon on bullet wounds. As gadgetgal points out, some of the questions still being asked are unbelievable! Just not applicable any more. Patriarchal het marriage should be replaced by a ‘one size fits all’ legal partnership available to any couple who define themselves in whatever way. Everybody would have the same basic legal rights. Of course they could still have whatever kind of ceremony they wanted, according to private religious belief, philosophy, etc.

Laura // Posted 27 November 2009 at 1:03 pm

I totally agree, Denise and Angelina.

Denise // Posted 27 November 2009 at 1:34 pm

Thanks, Laura. Following on from what I said earlier (and what Angelina says), I think the legal framework for the ‘one size fits all’ partnership already exists and would just need some tweaking to make it all-inclusive.

This is simple and it could be great!

Sara // Posted 27 November 2009 at 1:53 pm

Laura, kudos to you for raising this subject again. Civil marriage does not suit SO many people for so many (good) reasons. As other commenters say, it is one of those throwback things which is long overdue for either the chop or a massive overhaul. One legal partnership for all, with equal rights for everyone, could be the perfect solution.

I’ve been happily married for twelve years now. I had the white dress and the flowers and the cake (wasn’t ‘given’ away and certainly didn’t promise to obey!) and I loved it. But the point is, I did what I wanted, and why can’t everyone have that privilege? It’s not fair that some people should have more rights than others under the law.

Troon // Posted 27 November 2009 at 2:11 pm

It is astonishing just how sexist the legal frameworks around marriage are. My partner and I once nearly enquired about getting secretly married (only way of ensuring I would be recognised as the legal father of our children should she die in childbirth). The couple doing so at the same time as us wanted to have a ‘Disney’ wedding (not a metphor-page boys as dwarfs, you get the worrying drift). They were ‘sweet’ for getting into the spirit of things. We wanted to be crazy enough and true enough to opurselves to use ‘spouse’ for each of us in the ceremony, rather than ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. Couldn’t do that, response to ‘partner’ was ‘well, you may be partners, but this is about being more than that, about being husband and wife’. Screw this was our response, leaving is unprotected legally.

Agree with everything said above, although would clarify too that Angelina’s ‘all’ should also include asexual couples and friends wishing to live together for life.

angercanbepower // Posted 27 November 2009 at 3:44 pm

This is pedantic, but the couple’s statement irked me a little bit:

‘”In a democratic state, all institutions should be open to all people,” the statement added.’

That doesn’t mean anything:

a) What does this have to do with democracy (a specific system of electing rulers)?

b) What is an institution?

c) Who counts as a person? They’re not (I assume) asking for civil partnerships to be open to all people, just adults. There are often good reasons for restrictions to access; it’s just that sexual orientation is not one.

Sorry, I know that’s getting quite geeky about one comment. Clearly this is a good thing and I’m glad and grateful that they’re doing it.

Josie // Posted 27 November 2009 at 9:20 pm

I’m just loving this whole issue! I feel exactly the same about this issue as Tom and Katherine but have never have the guts to do anything about it. I think they are both wonderful and am really looking forward to their legal challenge. I find the whole thing very exciting.

I have to say that I disagree with some of the previous posters about the abolition of marriage – much as I loathe it personally, I have friends for whom marriage with all its traditions and trappings was exactly what they wanted and there should be room in society for all manner of relationships and partnerships. It’s just the celebration of marriage as ‘the gold standard’ of relationships that makes me ill.

Angelina – ‘Savlon on bullet wounds’?

Love it!

Politicalguineapig // Posted 27 November 2009 at 10:25 pm

Gadgetgal: good luck with your complaints! I’m not married and frankly don’t intend to be, but I wish you and your husband good luck.

A few science fiction books have suggested “contracts” of varying lengths.

For example, say two people of any gender sign up for a trial period of three to five years, with an option to renew. This would promote legal equality, and make it easy to leave bad/abusive relationships.

Of course, it’d need a lot of tweaking, but it’s an idea.

Mary // Posted 27 November 2009 at 10:28 pm

gadgetgal – we got civil partnered in Leeds/York in August 2008, and were asked for both our mothers’ and our fathers’ professions. Both are on our civil partnership certificate.

saranga // Posted 29 November 2009 at 10:02 am

@ politicalguineapig: it’s not just sci fi stories that have contracts of varying length. pagan weddings, termed handfastings, can be for specified terms, one year, 5, 20, etc. of course since no one takes paganism seriously I doubt that model would get off the ground.

gadgetgal // Posted 29 November 2009 at 4:01 pm

@Mary – I would have preferred a civil partnership, it even sounds better saying a “partnership” rather than “marriage”. Most of the time I still refer to my husband as my partner, it just makes more sense to my ears!

@Politicalguineapig – yeah, I’ve seen that in SciFi books too, I remember it from a Trudi Canavan one I read recently. I reckon if they just called them all civil partnerships and either had them for a set duration, or made them easier to finish if you don’t want to be together anymore that would be better. I remember when they instituted the one-year rule, where you had to wait a year and go to marriage guidance before you could end a marriage – as if a person wouldn’t be capable of knowing what their feelings are and when somethings finished!

I’ll post here again if and when they get back to me – I’ve sent off another email but I’m thinking if I write and send it registered mail they’ll be more likely to get back to me. Jut need to find out who’s best to hassle!

Susanna Farley // Posted 5 August 2010 at 7:53 pm

I have been married to my male partner for nearly 35 years. At the time I knew that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and we wanted some public declaration of our commitment, so reluctantly married. However I did not allow my father to ‘give me away’ (I was not his property to give to another man), did not wear a white dress and did not take my spouse’s surname.

I deplore the patriarchal and homophobic aspects of the marriage as an institution, and would love to have had the opportunity to enter into a civil partnership. Public declaration of commitment between individuals whether this is called marriage or civil parnership should be equally open to people of all sexualities, and the commitment should be internally egalitarian. It should not be a means whereby one of the partners exercises dominion over the other.

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