Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Equal Marriage and Henry Smith MP

I recently contributed to a request to petition the MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, to vote in favour of Equal Marriage ( ).

Mr Smith responded to petitioners, by stating that he was a civil libertarian, and supportive of Civil Partnerships, but felt that changing the law to allow for Equal Marriage "does not appreciate others sincerely held beliefs about what constitutes marriage to them."

I felt I wanted to respond politely to Mr Smith, and penned the following email on 5 December 2012.

Dear Mr Smith

I read your response to the petition with interest, and thank you for taking the time to respond.

I would like to address, if I may, your points that Civil Partnership offers the same protection as Marriage.  This is a fallacy that some seem to attempt to spread in the hope that it will somehow convince people that the Equal Marriage issue is somehow not deserving of their attention, and not worthy of revision.

As Civil Partners, my partner and I have been together for 4 years, and "Civilly Partnered" (such awkward terminology when you're in love, not a business partnership) for 6 months.  Under the current laws, at the end of our lives together, should one of us die, the other only has a legal right to inheriting the others possessions IF the deceased partner's blood family don't want them first.  And - in many cases - even making up a will stating that you want your partner to inherit your possessions, can be successfully contested by potentially embittered blood relatives.

There are also legal issues around inheritance and inheritance tax, which heterosexual married couples don't face when inheriting, and inequalities in the provision of pension benefits to the surviving partner when compared to heterosexual couples.

If you could spare 4 minutes of your time, this simple video explains SOME of the legal differences.

Putting aside the legal and the financial and the desire to make sure your loved one is taken care of should you pass away, in many instances, a same-sex partner can be denied the most basic things, like visiting rights in hospital or information about their loved one, should they be hospitalised or taken into care.  In at least one alleged case, the hospitalised person passed away and the family arranged a funeral, without their life partner even knowing that they had died.

This obviously sounds - and is - horrific, but not far-fetched, when you consider the relationship breakdown between many LGBTQ people and their families when they come out.

Again, if you could spare 11 minutes of your time for this tragic and true account of a young couple, it will highlight some of what same-sex couples go through because Civil Partnership does not offer the same protection as marriage:

At the end of the day, the slogan for the Coalition 4 Equal Marriage campaign sums it up well (albeit a bit too brief and simplistic to explain some of the gravity of the situation): "'Separate but equal' is not equal".

I look forward to hearing back from you and continuing this conversation. In the interest of open & honest communication, I should inform you that I may tweet / blog about your response.

Kind regards
Revd. Andy Marshall

I received a reply fairly quickly from his office, but they wanted to know my postal address.  When I responded with my address, they saw that I did not live in Crawley, and I was informed that "Parliamentary Protocol dictates that only your elected local representative can assist you with policy concerns and so I would urge you to contact your local Member of Parliament, Mike Hancock, directly."

To which I offered this response:
Dear ......
I was afraid you would say that.  My local MP, Mike, is fully behind Equal Marriage, so I don't need to contact him about this matter.

However ... Mr Smith splits his time between working for his constituents and working in Parliament, and The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament states that: "6.  Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents." (Section III. Duties of Members ... ). As Mr Smith's vote on the matter will directly affect me, I would still appreciate the matter being brought to his attention.

I eagerly await his reply.

With kind regards

I would like to encourage as many of Mr Smith's Crawley constituents to write to him as I can, so that he's aware of the full weight of the matter, and I would also like to encourage all citizens to continue to engage with their local politicians, and the Prime Minister about this important matter.

Not supporting Equal Marriage would be a grave loss for equality.  To finish, I'd like to offer a couple of quotes:
Hillary Clinton, "Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority." (
Or Maureen Walsh, an American Republican, we should all be "Speaking against the vocal majority on behalf of the rights of the majority." (

The majority already have a voice. We need to encourage the minority to speak up, and we need to ensure they have the safety to do so, and then we need to not just listen, but HEAR.

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