We’re Not Equal Until We’re Equal

Having raged at the TV and radio since last night, and listened to angry Tories who think it’s okay for same sex couples to have civil partnerships but not marriage, I grabbed the nearest dictionary. The Collins Gem English Dictionary.

Equal = identical in size, quantity, degree, etc; having identical rights or status; evenly balanced; a person or thing equal to another.

Marry, marrying, married = take as a husband or wife; join or give in marriage; unite closely.


From the Macmillan On line Dictionary

Civil Partnership = a relationship similar to marriage for two people who are of the same sex.


I think the definition of Marry, Marrying, Married could very easily apply to same sex couples, but in the definition of civil partnership, it’s the word ‘similar’ that stands out to me. Similar is not equal. People often say, you (us same sex couples) have civil partnership, you have the same rights as heterosexuals, what more do you want? I’ll tell you what more I want and what I think the majority of same sex couples want – there are of course those who choose not to copy their heterosexual counterparts, which is fine by me. At least you have some choice, many the world over do not. You can’t choose unless you have a choice, unless you are truly equal.

I’ve always believed in equality, in many ways we still don’t have that in every part of society, but progress has been made and some progress is better than none. In terms of Civil Partnership v Marriage, I want the choice, I want to choose to marry Stella and not just be her civil partner, although the latter has meant that we are now a little safer should something happen to one of us. And safety, for me, is important. And I don’t just mean financial safety. When Stella was sick 13 years ago, there was nothing legally in place to protect us and worst of all, I was not considered Stella’s next of kin, (nor she mine) if the need arose. Fortunately it didn’t. It would have been up to individual doctors and nurses to accept us as a couple and treat us with the respect they would a married couple. They were under no obligation to do so. And for every heterosexual couple who has chosen not to marry, at least you had the choice to opt out. You always had the choice to marry in a registry office and have equal rights. Same sex couples did not until very recently.

I took my dad to hospital in May 2005. He was having a heart valve replaced and I sat on his bed while my mum signed the various consent forms and I cried. Not because I was worried my dad would die, but because I knew this treatment, this signing of forms, next of kin, etc etc, was not available to same sex couples and it made me utterly sad. Four months later Stella and I had a civil registration at City Hall. We had a party for nearly 200 of our family and friends, spent more on alcohol than food, it was one of the best nights of my life. We bought gorgeous dresses, and shoes from Gina (Stella, green suede) and Ferragamo (mine, red suede with a black bow at the back). My feet were happily numb for days after. I’d do it all over again, every tear, speech, laugh, hug. But our ‘registration’ wasn’t legal. It was only when we’d organised that party, that civil partnership was announced. On December 23rd 2005 our relationship was legally recognised at Brixton Town Hall. We were safer. But we were still not equal. We are still not equal.

There has been much discussion about equal marriage, those for it, those against it, those who don’t care, those who think there are more important issues to resolve, and those who feel same sex couples should be grateful for civil partnership because it gives us equal rights. It doesn’t. And here are seven reasons why same sex couples will not have true equality until we are afforded exactly the same rights as our heterosexual friends. If you want to read about this in more detail go here where you can also read about the atrocities being carried out on same sex couples and discover that, contrary to what many Tories think, it ain’t fixed yet. I credit and thank Gaystarnews for the information below, it is all theirs.

1. Financial rights

Civil partners do not have the same pension rights as married couples. If one civil partner dies, the pension share that the surviving partner receives is often lower and lasts for less time than with married couples. The reason for this is the pension a surviving partner is entitled to is measured differently depending on whether they have been civil partnered or married.

2. Separate is not equal

The culture of many countries, including the UK, revolves around marriage as an institution. Though not all straight people do get married, marriage with a loved partner is an option that is legally available to them. The language of marriage carries a social weight that civil partnership does not. This is a reason why civil partners often refer to their partnerships as ‘marriages’, rather than ‘partnerships’. Those who back equal marriage say using a different word indicates that society attaches less importance to civil partnerships.

3. Living abroad

Travel restrictions apply to civil partners but not married couples. Countries like Sweden, Argentina and Portugal, where same-sex marriage is legal, do not see civil partnerships as marriage. This means UK civil partners living abroad do not enjoy the same rights as same-sex married couples in the 11 countries where equal marriage is legal. In addition, the marriages of foreign gay couples who travel to the UK are not legally viewed as marriages.

4. Gender is written into the structure of UK marriage law.

This means if a married trans person would like to get a Gender Recognition Certificate as part of living in their preferred gender, they must divorce and reapply for civil partnership. Separate marriage and civil partnership regulations mean gender and orientation are the deciding factors in what relationships are legally recognized.

5. Forced outing

Official forms such as the UK census require a declaration of marital status. This often means that civilly partnered people are forced to state their sexuality, ticking a separate box that says ‘civil partnership’ rather than ‘marriage’.

6. Adultery and vows

Unlike marriages, consummation is not a legal requirement of civil partnerships. Neither is adultery recognized as grounds for dissolution. These differences won’t be addressed by the new equal marriage legislation as the government does not intend to re-write these areas of law. There is also no requirement for civil partners to take any vows.

7. Straights not included

Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has complained the UK government is not offering civil partnerships to heterosexuals too, creating another inequality in his opinion. He said: ‘Marriage equality bill is not true equality. It keeps ban on straight civil partnerships. Wrong!’


Today, in England, parliament is debating equal marriage in the next, hugely important step of its difficult journey. The big worry is that anti equal marriage MPs will start debating civil partnership for heterosexual couples, and so delay the equal marriage bill for about two years. So there is every chance that heterosexual couples will have equality before same sex couples do, if ever, in England. I already call Stella my wife, but I’d like the choice to do so in a country that I call mine, in a country I love, in a country that recognises us as equal, rather than insisting we use a business term that it really does not take seriously. We can get married in any of the following countries if we want to, though it won’t be recognised here. (Dates that equal marriage came in are in brackets) – The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland, (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), Brazil (2013) and France (2013).

We’re not equal until we’re equal.

5 thoughts on “We’re Not Equal Until We’re Equal

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog post which has become a topic of conversation in our household (although we are a little behind the times in reading it as I can see you posted it in May!)… like you, we have been civil partnered for many years now and always thought we were entitled to the same rights as hetrosexual married couples… how wrong we were in thinking this. Your article has added food for thought in how we are thinking about our future, and opened our eyes even wider to Marriage Equality.
    Thank you!

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