Little to say for myself

Monday, June 30, 2003

Terminal Legality

Two things this morning: one trivial, one not.

Trivia first:
Last night, shortly after midnight, I made the mistake of a final browse through the TV channels before switching off, and lighted on the start of an episode of "Law and Order" on Sky One. Never having seen it before, I was intrigued that they seemed to have the name arse-about-face. It's a crime series where the title refers to the team-work between the Police and the District Attorney's office. However, they refer to the Police as being the "Law" part, and the DA's office as being the "Order" part. Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn't that be the other way round?
Anyway, being the indignant pedant that I am, I decided to watch the first few minutes to confirm that I was right and they were wrong. Sadly I got drawn into the story and, despite complaints from my eyelids, decided to see it through to the end. Imagine my delight when the hour concluded with "to be continued". At first I thought "Sod it. Now I'll never know what happens.", but even worse was to come. The concluding part followed immediately afterwards, so I ended up glued to my sofa until 2:15 this morning. What a twat.

So, the second thing I wanted to say may be affected by my unusually bleary Monday morning feeling:

This morning's news about the forthcoming White Paper on same-sex "marriages" is another example of the muddle of legislation. It almost seems to be deliberate policy that, when a change to the law is proposed, it has to be a partial, rather than complete, solution to a problem. I'm not sure whether this is due to some misguided need to avoid offending "small c" conservatives, or the need to provide continuing employment to the law-makers.

I refer to the fact that, while the paper proposes the introduction of much-overdue rights for same-sex couples, it ignores the many thousands of heterosexual couples who suffer from the same lack of legal protection. As Peter Tatchell says, this is bizarrely heterophobic.

I applaud the progress made, but I'm disappointed that it's incomplete.

I realise that hetero couples have the option to get married if they want the same status, but therein lies the rub. Our politicians all love to speak in favour of marriage as the cornerstone of a stable society, waxing lyrical about the spiritual (and even religious) virtues of wedlock, and yet they seem happy to encourage couples to enter into it for purely financial reasons.

The fact is that there are many committed couples out there who resist the idea of marriage because of its connotations. Legally speaking, the Marriage Licence differentiates between the husband and wife, in that it is designed to prove that the woman is married. The man has no legal need for the document - his legal status does not change, but the woman's does. Some couples object to this. Others simply feel that marriage is not so much a contract between two individuals, as a contract between that couple and the society around them. It heaps external expectations on a couple which can sometimes cause difficulties within the relationship, or at the very least to change its nature.

I'm not saying that marriage is a bad thing, just that the only reason for people to enter into it should be that they really want to - whether that be for reasons of love, for reasons of cultural tradition, or for reasons of religion. It does no good to anyone to coerce people into marriage for financial reasons, and thereby to discriminate against those who make the conscious and principled choice not to take on its many prejudices.

posted by Plig | 11:41 |

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