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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Is marriage still the ultimate goal?

What have Kate Winslet and a growing number of gay couples got in common? They both believe in marriage! Yes, the importance of marriage is a hot topic again it seems. Kate Winslet told Glamour magazine how she truly believes in the importance of marriage and the specialness of such a lifelong commitment to a partner. Yes, this is the same Kate Winslet who recently split from her second husband in three years. Heart-warming to hear she still has hope though. A romantic at heart.

Her comments come just a few days after the debate on gay marriage burst into flame again. The government announced plans to allow churches in England and Wales to host civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples. It is seen by many as an interim step and pressure groups now want to make the leap to allow gay partners to have a civil marriage in the same way that heterosexual couples can.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone has said there was "a real desire to address the differences between civil marriage and civil partnerships", according to the BBC story on the issue. The changes to the Equality Act would also allow straight couples to commit to each other in civil partnerships. Currently only gay couples can do this, though the validity of this has been challenged, as I mentioned in a blog a few months ago.

All these changes and mooted changes are becoming hard to keep up with. Gay couples can have civil partnerships but not civil marriage, so that is being looked at. Heterosexual couples wanting the right to civil partnerships rather than to be married is being looked at. Meanwhile, Cameron and Clegg appear to be at odds on whether or not they should be doing more for married couples, or focusing on unmarried couples.

My personal view is that, to some extent, it seems slightly moot that people are showing such strength of feeling over what, is, essentially, semantics. A gay couple joining in a civil partnership is, to most, a gay marriage. The fact that it is not exactly the same as a marriage joining a straight couple is splitting hairs maybe. On the other side, a straight couple mounting a legal challenge to get the same rights as gay couples as they don’t want to marry, they want to be joined in a civil partnership, seems similarly picky to me.

At the end of the day, aren’t all these people just saying they want to commit to their partner for life? And isn’t that one of the most fundamental building blocks of marriage, whatever you choose to call it?

Andrew Woolley
Family Solicitor

 

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