- Published on Tuesday, 29 January 2013
- Written by Jane Carnall
Nadine Dorries has said this morning that she intends to propose some amendments to the equal marriage bill at Westminister, "laying down amendments to equal marriage bill to ensure it is just that, equal."
The exact wording of these amendments is unknown at this time, but what she has said she intends to propose:
- a marriage between a same-sex couple cannot be annulled due to nonconsummation, but a heterosexual marriage can.
- Consummation is defined in law as heterosexual intercourse
- Annulment is a retroactive legal process which deems the marriage never to have been legally valid.
- "In SSM Bill, a gay person can only divorce his or her partner for adultery if it is with a member of the opposite sex!!"
- This is true for mixed-sex marriage too.
- "Imagine in Het marriage if a woman cld only divorce husband for adultery if he had sex with a man or vice versa?"
- Adultery is defined in law as heterosexual intercourse. If a man has sex with another man while married to a woman, this is not in law adultery: it is just being unfaithful.
- Being unfaithful is accepted as "unreasonable behaviour" regardless of the gender or form of unfaithfulness: civil partner or spouse can divorce for being unfaithful, whether or not the lawyers would call it adultery.
The above amendments seem either frivolous or ignorant: something that will surprise no one familiar with Nadine Dorries' record. (While voting with the Conservative Party on boundary amendments that would remove her constituency, Dorries is technically in Parliament as an Independent after Sir George Young withdrew the Party Whip from her during her escapade to Australia for I'm A Celebrity last year.)
However, her last proposal is something serious:
- In SSM Bill, no legal protection for Registrars
- A civil registrar has been required to wed any couple who is entitled to marry under British law since 1836. There is no legal "protection" for a Registrar who wants to exercise their own personal or religious prejudice about who is or is not entitled to marry, and there never has been.
The presumption that a registrar should be entitled to reject same-sex couples is one that has already been tried and failed at the European Court of Human Rights with Lilian Ladele: the claim that this constitutes discrimination against registrars who "don't believe" in same-sex marriage is part of the Coalition for Marriage's claims, but this claim has already failed appeal at the highest court recognised in the UK.
Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has voted consistently against equal rights for LGBT people and issued a statement against same-sex marriage in February last year: he has also signed the Coalition for Marriage petition. In a bill submitted using the 10 Minute Rule, he has proposed that the Equality Act 2010 should be amended so that it will be unlawful to discriminate against people on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and conscientious beliefs about the definition of marriage. The last is Leigh's addition.
This corresponds more broadly to Dorries' idea of giving civil registrars a unique right to refuse to wed same-sex couples: Leigh would give anyone a protected right to discriminate against same-sex couples on the grounds that they held "conscientious beliefs about the definition of marriage".
The Scottish Government has already proposed, and the UK Government has agreed, that the Equality Act shall be amended to ensure that no religious celebrant can be required to perform a marriage against their conscience, even if the religious body of which they are a celebrant supports the marriage of same-sex couples.
There is no known instance of any religious celebrant in the UK ever being taken to court for refusing to wed a couple against their conscience. Vicars have refused to marry divorced couples, rabbis have refused to marry Jew to Gentile, Presbyterian ministers have refused to marry couples who were already cohabiting. Nor is there any instance in any other country where the ban on same-sex marriage has been lifted: in Spain the ban was lifted in 2005, and in seven years during which the Catholic Church has consistently and steadily objected to the celebration of same-sex marriage, with no known instance of any priest being prosecuted.
The majority of people polled agree that same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry, that religious bodies should have the freedom to solemnise a same-sex couple's marriage, and that any individual religious celebrant should have the right to refuse.
None of Dorries' proposed amendments are likely to make it into the bill and nor is Leigh's proposed amendment to the Equality Act. However, Nadine Dorries has close links with several of the organisations that are behind the Coalition for Marriage. These amendments suggest the direction that the campaign against the equal marriage bill is likely to take in Parliament.
Write to your MP to tell them your feelings about equal marriage.