Gale's view - Civil Union 10th February 2013
The Same Sex Marriage Bill has been given, with the support of most of the Labour Party, most of the Liberal Party and a minority of the Conservative Party, a second reading. It now has to be subjected to pre-committee scrutiny, to a committee stage (the Government has resisted calls for part of the bill to be taken by Committee of the Whole House in the Chamber) a report stage and third reading. On the assumption, probably correct given a Commons majority of getting on for 250 votes, that the bill survives this process it will then be sent off to the House of Lords where its future is far less certain. It is at that point that it will be most possible to table serious amendments that may mitigate at least some of the most deleterious effects of the legislation and, perhaps, produce a bill that is rather more acceptable to a majority on the government benches than the present dog`s breakfast of ill-thought-through ideas.
In the House of Commons I put forward, during the debate, a radical proposal that has been widely and in some cases probably deliberately misconstrued.
While reports that I have sought to compare gay marriage with incest are quite simply ludicrous and wholly without foundation it is an absolute fact that there is a group of people who were quite deliberately excluded from the provisions of the Labour Government`s Civil Partnerships Bill and that group does include siblings (brothers and sisters).
I have suggested, in place of the Same-Sex marriage bill, the abolition of the provision for Civil Marriage (the Registry Office wedding) and of the Civil Partnerships Act and the replacement of both with a Civil Union conducted by the Registrar. A Civil Union would separate Church from a State that has no right or business to meddle in marriage and would leave marriage, clearly defined as a union between one man and one woman for life, as the prerogative of faith groups. The Civil Union would make provision, in law, for all of those who do not wish to embark upon a religious marriage and would provide for the full and equivalent legal , property and other rights currently covered by civil proceedings. It would be quintessentially equal”, which I understand to be the order of the day, as between homosexual and heterosexual couples and would include siblings and those others barred from the present Civil Partnership.
In this context it is worth noting that the provision for siblings, which has nothing whatsoever to do with sex or incest, has, since my speech, already aroused the interest of those, mainly elderly, brothers or sisters currently facing the loss of transferable benefits or even the loss of a home upon the death of one of two people as a result of the imposition of inheritance tax from which same-sex couples, but not siblings, are protected. I am given permission to cite, as an example, two sisters currently in their 60s living in Mid Kent . They have always shared a home. Through the premature loss of their parents they lived with an Auntie” who developed Alzheimer`s disease. One of the two ladies went out to work while the other stayed at home as a carer. They bought, jointly, a home. When the Auntie” died the other sister resumed her career. They then received notification that, unlike a married couple or lesbians in a Civil Partnership, they could not inherit either SERPS or State Pension rights This sibling relationship has lasted for more than 64 years which is longer than most marriages. They have paid their taxes but are denied, as would be two brothers, the rights that if they were homosexual they would be allowed to enjoy.
If the Labour MP Mr. Chris Bryant , speaking on the Jeremy Vine programme, is any authority then it would appear that the homosexual lobby sees my proposal as a wrecking amendment” and will no doubt therefore oppose it vigorously. It also does not satisfy the Prime Minister`s desire to deliver same Sex Marriage”. It might, though prove to be rather more acceptable to more people and it might introduce the real rather than the, at present, exclusive, equality that those behind this legislation claim that they wish to see.
I am not a parliamentary draughtsman and I am sure that there are pitfalls that will need to be addressed but I hope that it might be possible to introduce amendments along these lines, or even a new bill, in the House of Lords.