Pressure is growing for same-sex couples to be given full equality in marriage law after 98 per cent of people questioned in a poll of Pink News readers declared that civil partnerships do not go far enough.
The magazine, which is read primarily by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, followed the poll by asking a number of organisations to express their views on the issue. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) was one of several to respond by calling for marriage equality.
LGBT groups within all three leading political parties also expressed their support. But Pink News says that Stonewall, Britain's largest LGB charity, declined to respond to the request. Stonewall has been accused by other campaigners of dragging its feet on the issue of marriage.
“I am so glad that you are talking about 'marriage equality' and not 'gay marriage',” said Rev Sharon Ferguson of LGCM, “Marriage is the celebration and legal recognition of the commitment between two people – the gender of those involved should not be an issue”.
She also pointed out the “ludicrous scenario for some trans people”. Currently the law states that if one partner in a married couple changes gender then the marriage is annulled. If the couple choose to remain together, they have to enter a civil partnership in order to achieve legal recognition of their relationship.
The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell added, “The main issue is not whether same-sex marriage is a priority but whether LGBT people should be banned from getting married. We should not be banned.”
In what some may see as a criticism of Stonewall, Tatchell added that, “No LGBT organisation claiming to support equal rights should remain silent and inactive while we are denied the right to marry”.
Scotland has recently seen the launch of the Equal Marriage Campaign, which brings together a number of faith groups, human rights activists and other organisations to promote marriage equality in the country. Amnesty International has backed the campaign.
The UK Parliament voted in April to allow religious elements in civil partnerships in England and Wales. There will be no element of compulsion for churches and other faith groups who do not wish to participate. The government is currently holding consultations about how this law will be implemented.
Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Jews and the Metropolitan Community Church have all said that they are interested in carrying out same-sex weddings.
The religion and society thinktank Ekklesia is calling for a thorough overhaul of marriage law that would separate the religious and personal elements of marriage from the legal aspects. This would enable people to enter into a ceremony that had personal and, if they wish, religious significance, with legal registration being a separate process for those who want state recognition.