Monday, November 08, 2010

Equal love

Six years ago, in a step forward for equality, the UK introduced the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. The Act granted same-sex couples marriage in all but name. But to stress that this wasn't "really" marriage, it was a deliberate "separate but equal" regime. Gays could get a civil partnership, but they couldn't marry. Straight couples could marry, but couldn't get a civil partnership. The result is unequal love, and continued stigmatisation and discrimination.

Now, that separate but unequal system is being challenged. Last week, a same-sex couple went to their local registry office and applied to marry. Tomorrow, an opposite-sex couple will do the same in an attempt to gain a civil partnership. The inevitable refusal will form the basis of a legal challenge to Britain's discriminatory marriage regime. Which, because the UK's human rights laws have teeth, may see the twin bans overturned (and if not, at least build political pressure for action by Parliament).

In New Zealand, our system isn't quite as discriminatory as the UK's. Our civil unions are open to both same- and opposite-sex couples, and several of my friends have been civilly unified in preference to marriage. But same-sex couples still can't marry, and this is a stain on our nation. It is long past time we erased that stain, allowed same-sex marriages, and allowed equal love.