Or should it be civilianise me”? Or “be civil to me”? Whatever the right proposal may be, it certainly doesn’t have the same ring (no pun intended) as “Will you marry me?”
What am I rambling about? A heterosexual couple are launching a legal bid to become civil partners. Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle don’t want to get married but hey want their union to be formally recognised in the eyes of the law. The problem with the law at the moment is that civil partnerships are only available to gay couples. They were introduced with the Civil Partnerships Act 2004 after years of lobbying to give same sex partners the same (or similar) legal rights to married couples. Now a heterosexual couple want to go down that route instead of getting married. Yes, it is a little confusing.
That said though, is there anything intrinsically wrong with Tom and Katherine wanting to do this? After five years together they want to make a lifetime commitment to each other and they'd like greater legal and financial security than that offered by simply cohabiting. They just don’t want to get married. So on 9 November, they will go to the town hall in Islington, north London, and file a civil partnership application. Who knows what the outcome will be?
A civil partnership is not to be confused with a civil ceremony, which is where a couple marry in a licensed venue other than a church (they get legal approval rather than God’s). A marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Civil partnerships were created as a way of getting around this, creating a loophole in many ways, that allowed same sex partners to enjoy the same security that married couples do. What then is the point of a heterosexual couple joining in a civil partnership? Both Tom and Katherine explain that their primary reason for not getting married is that they do not want to be part of an institution from which gay and lesbian people are excluded. I’ll leave you to think about that one.
I do feel it is a little odd to restrict people to different types of arrangement on the basis of their sexuality. To this end, I would not have a problem if gay couples were married in the true sense, or if heterosexual couples wanted civil partnerships. The main difference really is the wording used. People should be free to marry, co-habit, or be civilised together depending on what suits them best. After all, the “divorce” process is almost the same already.
That said, it is perhaps going a bit far to suggest that current civil partnerships are “heterophobic”. That would be going too far.