Last week the BBC reported the news that a heterosexual couple had lost their Court of Appeal battle to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage. I think this is very disappointing.
It is a while now since same sex couples won the right to civil partnerships and I was disappointed when they continued to fight for the right to get married; a fight which they finally won in 2014.
I was not disappointed because I am a bigot who disapproves of same sex relationships, but because I felt that this was a backward step.
I got married in 2003.
I didn’t want to get married – it was a very reluctant decision.
This reluctance wasn’t because I didn’t love my wife: I did – and still do. I just don’t agree with the concept of marriage.
Maybe the fact that we have both been married before made us cynical of the institution, but we both felt that marriage is an antiquated practice that has no place being foisted upon our modern lives.
As far as I can see, the only good reason to get married is to make a commitment before your god if you are religious, which we are not.
We had decided not to get married. We had privately committed to our relationship and that should have been good enough. But it’s not.
If you are not married there are a whole host of legal problems lining up to get you at some point in the future.
This was brought home to us following the serious illness and death of a close family member.
If you are not legally recognised as next of kin you have no rights to any say in how your loved one is treated. And, of course, not being next of kin has an impact on how your property is distributed when you die.
All of these problems can, I’m sure, be overcome by jumping through the right legal hoops, but that can be complicated and expensive.
So in the end we decided the simplest thing to do was to get married.
There were six of us at the ceremony and the music we chose to play whilst we signed the register was The Clash: I Fought the Law (and the Law Won).
A civil marriage ceremony solves all of the legal problems, but although it is not supposed to be religious it still feels very religious. And now the state has a say in our lives. If we decide that we no longer want to be together we have to seek permission to separate – what is that about?
Yes, if you have children they must have some protection in law, but we don’t.
Surely we should be allowed to form a simple legal contract which gives us those rights currently conferred by marriage and, at some time in the future, we can decide to cancel that contract if we wish.
The impact of that cancellation would need to be managed legally, including protecting the rights of any children, but that doesn’t seem to be any different to the way it works out today.
That legal contract should be able to be awarded to anyone: opposite sex or same sex.
Indeed why should it be limited to loving couples of any sex wanting to form a life-long relationship? Why shouldn’t such a legal relationship be possible for friends who just choose, for whatever purposes of convenience or affordability, to live together?
I had hoped that the fight for same sex unions to be recognised would lead us toward this happy state of affairs, but no: in their wisdom, when the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 came into force, it stipulated that it was for same sex couples only. Opposite sex couples were specifically excluded.
Why should that be? Is it to protect the ‘sacred institution’ of marriage and keep religion somehow relevant? If so, the law should have nothing to do with such aims.
Having got that far, the gay community had done their bit. Perhaps at that stage the heterosexual community should have risen up to demand equal rights to civil partnership, but we didn’t.
Instead, the gay community continued to press on for the equal right to get married.
Rather than dragging the world into a more enlightened age, they chose to hark back to an outdated religious ritual.
I can understand that same sex couples want equal rights, but why they would want to marry in the eyes of a church that preaches hate against their way of life baffles me. Surely making a public commitment and gaining legal protection is all that is required.
I reject the notion that love and marriage are intrinsically entwined – this is just the dogma that has been perpetuated by an almost superstitious belief in an antiquated ritual.
I think it is time that we, as a human race, evolved to be more grown up and realistic about how we live our lives.
The good news is that a heterosexual couple has now had the courage of their convictions to stand up and fight for the right not to be constrained by the shackles of traditional marriage.
Although they lost their case, they only did so on a technicality, and they have forced the issue to be revisited. It is now to be debated in a Private Members Bill on 24 March.
I hope that good sense prevails and we can finally take a big step out of the dark ages toward a more enlightened secular age.