The launch of the Equal Love campaign this week got me thinking about marriage, what it means as a religious institution, what it means as a civil institution and how the church and state work together.
The campaign aims to challenge the twin bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships, with eight couples filing applications at registry offices and then, when they are refused, bringing a joint legal action in the courts to secure a change in the law. The Equal Love campaign is being organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage! and is being coordinated by Peter Tatchell.
Civil marriage open to same-sex couples is the growing trend all over the world. It exists in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, as well as seven of our European neighbours: Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing, from Boris Johnson to Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.
I support the Equal Love campaign, our country’s marriage laws are outdated and I believe in the need to bring them into the 21st century. I propose merging the civil marriage and civil partnership legislation into one, a civil marriage which is a public statement of commitment and a merging for tax purposes. The current rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical anyway, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy.
In a democracy, gay and straight couples should be equal before the law, civil marriage should be open to all citizens regardless of the gender of either partner.