It strikes me that a number of questions need to be engaged with by those who advocate changing the definition of marriage in this country, so I want to start a list of issues that should be addressed. Feel free to add other suggestions below, but given the way we try to do things here, can we have sensible suggestions please?
- We should stop talking about “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage”. If all that is being proposed is this then we could simply rename Civil Partnerships as “Gay Marriage” and let “(traditional) marriage” carry on alongside it. What is actually being proposed is not “gay marriage” per se, but rather a redefinition of marriage to become “gender-neutral marriage”. The debate should be rephrased in these terms to accurately reflect what is being proposed. Let’s use this term here as GNM (gender-neutral marriage).
- Under GNM what is the definition of consummation? It either needs to be defined in a manner that works for all three combinations of spouses (male-male, female-female and male-female) since if we define it in three separate ways we no longer have a gender-neutral institution. Can this redefinition be done?
- If this redefinition of consummation can’t be done, we need to remove references to consummation in legislation such as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. We will also need to go back through all the case law around consummation and change it to bring it in line with a Marriage Act that has no place for consummation. Has this work been done by the GNM advocates?
- If consummation is removed from the understanding of marriage in English Law, how will GNM be any different from how Civil Partnerships are now?
- If consummation is removed from the understanding of marriage in English Law, then the legislation around marriage will no longer have any references to sex (in a similar manner to the current Civil Partnership legislation). If this is so then have we addressed all the out-workings of this? For example, will there need to be legislative changes around the registering of child births (where currently only a biological father who is married to the mother can register the birth of his child on his own behalf). What about all the case law around sex in marriage? Can GNM advocates successfully show that they have addressed how this will be impacted?
- Although churches will (for the moment) be exempted from registering GNM of people of the same sex, what about other events run by the church? For example, will a “Marriage Enhancement Course” run by a church be allowed to exclude same-sex couples who have a GNM? What are the exact limits of religious exclusion (churches, para-church organisations, religious charities) and can these exclusions be explicitly defined in legislation rather than left to case law?
- What is the exact relationship between the Church of England marriage liturgy and the Marriage Act 1949 (as it will be amended) and how does this affect GNM? Specifically, will it be legal for the solemnization of marriage that occurs within a Church of England church to use language in the service that specifically rejects the notion of GNM?
That’s a few for now. Any more anybody?