Thursday, 7 February 2013

Equal Marriage - The Ayes Have It - But what was Sir Roger Gale MP really saying?

I was interested to see what my MP, Sir Roger Gale  had actually said on Monday in the debate on equal marriage. Twitter was full of him having said something about incest. On checking Hansard I see he didn't say that. Actually, he mentioned a type of legal union that I was advocating a few days ago.
Roger is against this. 

I think that in the future, a legal union, a dividing of the legal affairs of individuals who aren't necessarily lovers; perhaps life long companions would be a good thing. Many people now choose to live together, to share friendship who become life long partners.

There was the case in 2008 of two elderly sisters who had lived together their whole lives and who were fighting to be seen as a unit for inheritance tax reasons. Siblings cannot marry or form a Civil Partnership. Initimacy has nothing to do with it.

Prior to civil partnerships being offered to same sex couples, the fate of a surviving partner of same sex couples was a major problem. This is no
 less a problem for people who are life long companions who for reasons of family relationship cannot marry or join in a civil partnership. 

I strongly disagree with Roger's stance. But the brother sister union he defined in his speech in the Commons on Monday it didn't seem to be incest he was referring to?

"It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin), with whose speech I concur.
I had the privilege of chairing Committee proceedings on the Civil Partnership Bill. As has been said, very clear undertakings were given by the then Government and Opposition that that Bill was not the thin end of the wedge nor a paving Bill for same-sex marriage, but an end in itself to right considerable wrongs in the law. That it did, as the European Court of Human Rights has determined. In those respects, civil partnerships are indistinguishable from what we know as marriage.
When I put that point to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities, she said that no Government could bind another. Of course, she is correct. That kicks the bottom out of every undertaking that she has given. It is abundantly plain to most Conservative Members that the product of this Bill will end up before the courts and before the European Court of Human Rights, and that people of faith will find that faith trampled upon. That, to us, is intolerable.
I understand—I will give way to my right hon. Friend if she wishes to correct me—that the Cabinet paper on this matter was entitled “Redefining Marriage”. It is not possible to redefine marriage. Marriage is the union between a man and a woman. It has been that historically and it remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory—Orwellian almost—for any Government of any political persuasion to try to rewrite the lexicon. It will not do.
A way forward has been suggested, but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself, but I recognise the merit in the argument. The argument is that if the Government are serious about this measure, they should withdraw the Bill, abolish the Civil Partnership Act 2004, abolish civil marriage and create a civil union Bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or relationship. That means that brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters would be included as well. That would be a way forward. This is not...

The argument is not mine, but that of an eminent lawyer in this House. Its merit is that it would create what I think the hon. Gentleman wants, which is equality. It would create a level playing field and it would leave marriage and faith to those who understand that marriage means faith and that marriage means the union between a man and a woman and nothing else."

Edited to add I see over at Thanet Life they've added a clarification from Sir Roger himself:


At the risk of spoiling a good story, your reporter, Michael Deacon's idiotic report that I have put forward a suggestion that "would apply not only to gay people but incestuous relationships" demonstrates, yet again, the infinite capacity of the press to misconstrue a fact. 

Anyone who is conversant with the provisions of the Civil Partnerships Act - and Mr Deacon clearly is not - is aware that that law specifically excludes heterosexuals and siblings ( i.e. and the important distinction of an unmarried or widowed brother and sister, - or two brothers or two sisters - , caring for each other) from the protections in law and property rights afforded to same-sex couples. 

It is in that context that I have proposed the abolition of civil marriage (registry office weddings) and civil partnerships and their replacement with a Civil Union that would be all-embracing, that has nothing to do with incest or sex but would most certainly include siblings and other heterosexual partnerships. This would leave marriage, in its' understood form as between one man and one woman, to faith organisations and would separate state involvement from religious marriage and afford to all the "equality" that I understood to be the order of the day. 

The response that I have received from those disadvantaged by the current exclusion from civil partnerships indicates that this is a proposal that is worthy of serious consideration. 


I'm certainly not defending or agreeing with Sir Roger's view on equal marriage. However, I think the seizing on the incest claim is unhelpful. Civil rights for people who live together I think is a worthy cause. Sex doesn't come into it.

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