A few days ago there was a court decision which made the headlines. A heterosexual couple wanted a civil partnership, but found themselves losing a court case on the matter. Presumably this means that they have to make do with a marriage, or nothing at all. The history of marriage equality in the UK has been a very complex one. First, heteronormativity ruled, and only straight couples could marry. This caused problems for people who transitioned in their gender, with some marriages having to be annulled after or during the transition. (One argument I could never understand from a Catholic friend was that two men shouldn’t be able to get married, but if one of them transitioned to become a woman then the couple should be allowed to get married. I never could see how in this scenario the church would submit itself to the legal view over the moral one. Does this mean that the person who transitioned was now a woman in the eyes of the church? If so, were they always a woman? If that’s the case, why not let them get married? If not, what does define their gender?)
In recent years the UK has seen changes to the law to allow civil partnerships for same sex couples in 2004, followed by marriage equality in 2014. There was a modest pace, and the series of transitions from a two tier system to full equality took about a decade. The issue of couples experiencing a gender transition was also somewhat resolved in the process, and today we find ourselves with full legal protections for all same sex couples, and full equality in terms of marriage. That’s not enough for some people though, and now opposite sex couples find they are unable to get civil partnerships. Why would an opposite sex couple want a civil partnership in the first place? That’s not the right questions, of course. The right question is “Why deny them the opportunity?” It’s the one edge case which was not resolved until very recently, and the ruling came down against the couple in question. I’m no legal expert, and a lawyer friend explained that this is not a case for Judicial Review, so it looks like it will have to get sent back to the Houses of Parliament if it is to be reviewed.
The case seems to have split opinion amongst my friends. Some think that there are much bigger issues to care about, and that we shouldn’t spend our time on something so trivial. Others see it as an attack on the hard won civil partnerships that were such a radical change for same sex couples just over a decade ago. Others are happy that we have marriage equality, but frustrated that the Church of England still won’t allow same sex couples to get married. While I respect people with these concerns, my manners can only go so far, and if they choose to be a part of a church that would deny them personal rights, then that’s their own
stupid fault responsibility. They don’t have a right to complain at me if they choose to oppress themselves, although I suppose they can (and should) campaign for the church to modernise and change its ways.
Why does it matter so much? It matters because this is the last stage of not marriage equality, but genital agnosticism. It’s no secret that when people about “same sex” and “transitions” and “equality”, they are really talking about people’s genitalia. That is from where all of these arguments arise. Someone cannot understand that two people who have the same genitalia might fall in love. It gets even more ridiculous than this, because (transgender and intersex people aside) it all comes down to what genitalia people think that others have. There are people who dedicate time to denying others their rights because of what they think is in their pants. I want our society to get to the stage where is is no longer the case, and a large part of that is to undo the last remaining genital inequality, and to do so using most direct and explicit language possible.
I don’t much care about my own partnership rights, as I doubt I will ever enter into a formal partnership. I have no horse in this race. Nor do I particularly care much about the details of someone else’s partnership. That’s entirely up to them. There is a couple who have appeared before a court and asked for certain rights, and had it denied because one of the parties is assumed to have a penis and the other party is assumed to have a vagina. If I don’t care much either way for the nature of their relationship, I care even less about what they keep in their collective trousers. If I was their lawyer I would be tempted to ask them to present their irrelevant body parts as evidence. If the judge can honestly say that these sexual body parts are the reason they can’t get the rights they want then we will have at least moved the debate to where it really should be (or more correctly, to the ridiculous point it should never have reached, but everyone seems to be ignoring.)
In a modern society it should not matter what someone has between their legs. It should also not matter how they choose to express their love, or even if they do or do not express their love. This is what our attitude should be. When someone makes a case against same sex marriage I want to be able to look them straight (if you’ll excuse the pun) in the face and tell them that the other people’s genitalia are of no relevance. That can only be the case if I can also point to opposite sex couples and say the same thing. At that point, the bigoted person has no recourse, and must admit that they are, after all, interested in the contents someone else’s underwear.