The Government Consultation

Do you know what is most disappointing about the Government consultation on Gender Neutral Marriage? The lack of any actual consultation. The online form is full of “Yes / No” questions which cry out for a chance for the responder to clarify their answers but with no space to do so. Some of the questions are limited for replies to interested partners (for example the questions about transgender issues in relation to marriage licences) which you can only express an opinion on if you are transgendered. Those of us who are interested in this issue and its impact on the definition of sexual identity within marriage for everybody that these changes would create don’t get a say.

But most laughable of all is the amount of space we are allowed to comment, where we are allowed to comment – 1,225 characters, which is approximately 200 words. 200 words. Oh yes, we can get an in depth and sophisticated discussion of the issues in 200 words can’t we? That’s about two minutes of broadcasting on the radio during a news programme and that’s all we get to try and engage on this issue.

Yes, I’m sure you can email a much lengthier response, but nowhere on the Home Office website or in the consultation guidelines does it actually say that. The whole impression is of paying lip-service to any objections before steamrollering through what the Government wanted to do anyway.

Take for example the section on consummation and sex. The consultation document says,

Specifically, non-consummation and adultery are currently concepts that are defined in case law and apply only to marriage law, not civil partnership law. However, with the removal of the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, these concepts will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples and case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery.

That’s it. You can’t even comment on that proposal – there isn’t anywhere in the form to do it. I want a space to write, “But it beholds you to go back through all the case law and work through what the implications are of what you are proposing to do, with respect to consummation, laws around procreative responsibility of married fathers and other factors. You need to show us what the effect is”. That argument is independent of whether you agree or not with what the Government want to do – at the moment the Government is basically saying, “We’re going to do this and then afterwards we’ll find out what the legal ramifications are”. It’s not in any sense a way to make law.

Enough for now. Do excuse me as I’m going to go back to the form and think of an interesting way to fill in the “Sexual Orientation” section to fit my situation…

4 Comments on “The Government Consultation

  1. I agree completely Peter. I was filling it in earlier and found it incredibly limited, both in the space given and the questions that were asked to me, as a married heterosexual man.

  2. Government consultations are, more often than not, designed to preference certain points of view over others. Take the recent high-profile example of the HS2 Consultation – it was extremely difficult to say that the whole idea should be scrapped – or at least sent back to the drawing board – if you answered the questions as actually asked.

    If you want to contribute something more substantial than the website allows, then you should definitely send a response by email or snail mail.

  3. The consultation document gives these contact details:

    Please complete the online response form

    Alternatively you can email your response to the questions in this consultation to:

    Or write to us at:

    Equal civil marriage consultation responses

    Government Equalities Office

    3rd Floor Fry

    2 Marsham Street

    SW1P 4DF 
    Maybe they’ll consider longer responses if you email them, but there’s no indication that they are interested in anything more than answers to the questions they’ve laid out in the response form.

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