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To find myself suddenly struggling to welcome gay marriage?

(188 Posts)
grovel Tue 11-Dec-12 13:44:50

My initial reaction was "fine". As I think about it, I become rather sad that we are losing a distinctive quality in the meaning of marriage - namely that it celebrates how men and women complement each other (not only for purposes of procreation).

In every way I want equal recognition of partnerships be they straight or gay. Why then am I sad about changing the meaning of a word?

Devora Thu 13-Dec-12 12:12:32

I completely understand your point, Cat, but disagree that it is as significant as you believe. Removing the legal requirement for consummation for heterosexual marriage will make not the slightest difference to 99.9% of the population.

What it may do is provide another lever for clearer, more rational separation of church and state in marriage as in other public institutions. That is far more significant.

CatWithKittens Thu 13-Dec-12 12:04:19

Devora - That is not the point. It is not whether or not we can put up with historic anomalies or whether the law can be changed to permit same sex marriage but whether that change will actually create the level playing field that is being claimed or will itself create anomalies and inequalities. all I am saying is that it is inevitable either that the law will have to be changed for hetero-sexual marriage to abolish the possibility of annulment for non-consummation or that there will still not be equality of treatment unless the law also condescends to define consummation for same-sex marriage and to give the opportunity of annulment if there is non-consummation. You may say that such inequality does not matter or is acceptable but you cannot pretend that, if it is to exist, it must tend to work against the idea that everybody is to have exactly the same legal rights and form of relationship. Equally you must recognize that if annulment for non-consummation is to be abolished that does in fact change the nature of marriage for hetero-sexuals in altering the current legal concept of marriage as a civil or Anglican ceremony which is to be followed by consummation.

Devora Thu 13-Dec-12 11:12:08

Our laws are full of historical anomalies, most of which we are happy to leave undisturbed till they become problematic - then we get rid of them. Doubtless that will happen with the consumnation issue.

It keeps being raised in these threads and I don't understand why - it is completely trivial - feels like grasping at straws to prove that gays can't really be married in the full sense.

CatWithKittens Wed 12-Dec-12 17:48:31

I fear some poster are missing my point - probably my fault. Those in favour of the proposed change are saying that marriage for heterosexuals will not be changed by the proposals. I am saying that either it will have to be changed or same-sex marriage will still not be subject to the same legal considerations as hetero-sexual marriage. Of course nobody actually comes and checks on consummation but non-consummation of a hetero-sexual marriage leaves it open to annulment; will there be an equivalent rule for same-sex marriage? If so, what will the rule be? If not there will certainly be unequal and different principles applying depending on the type of marriage but, in the detail, the rules will obviously have to be different anyway. Rules designed for what happens in this area between husband and wife clearly cannot apply between to wives or two husbands or whatever term is to be applied to those in same- sex marriages.

trockodile Wed 12-Dec-12 13:11:13

Would also like to add that if people have a death bed marriage (for example) and (presumably) cannot have PIV, no one goes around saying that they weren't married and demanding annulments.

trockodile Wed 12-Dec-12 13:05:07

So hands up all these people who have had someone round to check whether your marriage has been consummated? It is not really that relevant or a reason to deny equality.

Civil partnership does not give all the same rights as marriage particularly in terms of international recognition.

GreatUncleEddie Wed 12-Dec-12 12:52:55

BUt there already is equality in the eyes of the law.. Civil partnership gives exactly the same rights in relation to divorce, adoption, inheritance, tax.

Marriage in the heterosexual sense has to be consummated by PIV sex, no one knows how consummation and annulment will work in a gay marriage where obviously there will be no PIV sex. I don't understand why we have to pretend the relationships are the same when they physically aren't, and the emotional commitment is already equally recognised.

CatWithKittens Wed 12-Dec-12 11:50:52

Pressed the return button too son. I was going to add that the whole process of the development of common law can lead to considerable uncertainty during that development, especially in the early stages. That is true of compensation for psychiatric injury at the moment. I would have thought that to have such uncertainty as to whether or not a marriage was voidable or not was not very satisfactory and that Parliament will either have to abolish nullity as a concept and alter the law so that unconsummated marriages are still marriages or define consummation for same sex marriages. In either case it will be changing marriage, some will say for the better, some will say not, but change there will have to be.

CatWithKittens Wed 12-Dec-12 11:44:28

Annie - sorry I was getting a bit technical; it comes of having studied law for my sins. This post is going to be a bit off topic but perhaps I ought to send it as an act of penitence for being too legalistic! Common law is really just the same as case law - it derives from decisions made by judges in the past, sometimes a very long time ago, sometimes more recently. (Henry II sent judges out on Assize to try to bring unity of law to the whole Kingdom because until then there were fairly widespread differences of approach in different parts of the country.) Much of our basic law derives from this source - especially the law of negligence or contract. However in nearly every area of the law there is now an interaction between common law or case law, statute law made by Parliament, often now incorporating EEC law into English law. Even now though the Supreme Court, replacing the House of Lords as the highest Court in the land, still makes law, and from time to time changes it if it is felt that is necessary. For instance they changed the law which used to say that barristers could not be sued for professional negligence and the very old law which prevented husbands being accused or convicted of rape of their wives.

Anniegetyourgun Wed 12-Dec-12 10:08:32

Oh, further to my late-night comment, it occurred to me that there used to be definitions of what people weren't allowed to do with each other, so all they have to do is adopt that and say right, when they've done this they've consummated! But really, the whole thing is a red herring nowadays. Marriages are relatively easy to dissolve once they have irretrievably broken down, and if one partner's saying "we never did it" while the other's saying "oh yes we did", that in itself is proof their relationship is not exactly rock solid. There really is no need to go down the route of "if you did (or failed to do) this you can say the marriage never happened, whilst if you did (or didn't do) that it did happen but you can now end it". It's quite unnecessarily intrusive. I don't know whether a court of law goes into much detail of who put what where and whether they waggled it about or not when deciding to annul marriages between men and women these days, but if they do, it's time they stopped.

So when you get one of those hotels like the one which wouldn't allow gay guests because it insisted on "married couples only", presumably they'd need to watch a couple at it so they can be sure they did the right things to make them really married and can't go and get an annulment the next day. Er, I don't see it, do you?

jidelgin Wed 12-Dec-12 08:27:11

I am sure there is a UK equivalent of this list (see below) somewhere.
my personal fave "the sanctity of the Britney Spears 55 hour just for fun marriage" laugh laugh !
Don't be gaycist - let me put a ring on it! wine

Kytti Wed 12-Dec-12 03:47:14

I kinda agree with the others in that marriage is a contract between two people to love, care for and look after each other and all that other good stuff. I understand in some way what you mean about the change, (NO! DON'T HUNT ME DOWN!) but it's just change. Some of us were brought up in a time when being gay was sadly illegal, you're simply reflecting on how things have changed. I think.

The marriage, relationship and love between two people is what is important. No matter who they are.

Anniegetyourgun Wed 12-Dec-12 01:39:34

CatWithKittens, I don't understand that comment at all. How does common law come about without legislation? Is it not through usage and case law? Surely that means a definition of consummation of same sex marriage will develop over time just as the other thing did. Thus no need to legislate specially, just as there was no need to legislate specially for heterosexual consummation. After all, it's not as if homosexuality is exactly a new thing. It's been going as long as there has been sex of any other kind, unless you believe literally that once upon a time there was only one man and one woman in the whole world.

Anniegetyourgun Wed 12-Dec-12 01:31:58

Lots of people don't care about things that don't directly affect them. I can't see that it's anything to be proud of, though.

Devora Wed 12-Dec-12 01:23:38

Well, I'm getting just slightly fed up with all those posters who come on these threads to roll their eyes and complain about how very tedious it is for them, how bored they are with having to let this trivial little topic flit across their frontal lobes.

This isn't for your entertainment, last time I checked. It's for equality in the eyes of the law, which some of us have been campaigning for for many, many years (30 years in my case). It's so my children don't have to learn that their parents are not considered less equal or important than their friends' parents. It's for religious freedom, so that the Quakers and the Liberal Jews can marry members of their congregations as they want to. It's so trans people don't HAVE to get divorced when they transition. It's because it's the right thing to do.

I have seen a lot of progress in my lifetime, from the strongly condemnatory attitudes of most of society when I was a gay teen, to today when these threads demonstrate the empathy, integrity and warmth of most MNetters. But those of you who feel your boredom or lack of understanding is in any way relevant, or who imagine yourselves somehow ahead of the curve in being a bit oh-excuse-me-while-I-yawn-they're-discussing-gays-again, please understand that lesbians and gays are not just for Christmas, not only deserving of respect when we're doing something that's interesting to you.

whois Wed 12-Dec-12 00:43:07

I can't get worked up about this for or against.

sashh Wed 12-Dec-12 00:36:01

Er...why are we losing it? Are you telling me that the gays can marry and normal people can't?


Gay isn't normal?

ArielTheBahHumbugMermaid Tue 11-Dec-12 22:09:09

Am watching the Lords on the news at the moment.

I just cannot understand why some people are so bothered about it, I really can't.

suburbophobe Tue 11-Dec-12 20:19:43

Haven't read the whole thread.

But (gay) marriage is about a lot more than a "white wedding in a church".

It's about the legality. That you can be considered next-of-kin and have your partner inherit etc. and all the rest.

Rather than the parents and family who threw you out when they couldn't deal with it....

They pay their taxes, why on earth should they not have the same rights?!

ComposHat Tue 11-Dec-12 20:08:09

I really can't see how anyone can object to gay marriage.

Really what is the fuss about? What do they think will happen if/when gay people can get married? The high heavens will fall in? Plagues of locusts will roam the earth?

It isn't like they are making gay marriage compulsory, if you don't want to marry someone of your own gender no one will make you.

Blu Tue 11-Dec-12 19:44:45


<<demonstrates that I have read the thread>>

I hate it when people march into a thread and start spouting irrelevant bollocks because they haven't read the thread.

jeanvaljean - it isn't about being in some sort of spurious 'equality warpath' for the sake of it. Look at the people flocking to actually get married in those Seatttle pics, and the average age of them. I would say older than the average age of heterosexual newlyweds. The number who talk of having been together more than 20 years - this marriage, on the same terms and with the same term, is important to them. Marriage has huge ceremonial weight. Imagine being told that men (or white people) can be 'Members of the Library', but women (or black people) must apply for a licence to borrow books, instead. The needless distinction would be outrageous.

Some religious people have a particular take on marriage, but I do not see why the rest of us should have to observe that. Marriage is an institution that exists beyond religious contexts.

(and I am a marriage refusenik)

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 11-Dec-12 18:33:32

YABU,but you've admitted it.

PackingIdiot the Royal family were all born in Britain, except the Duke of Edinburgh therefore...they are British.

changeforthebetterforObama Tue 11-Dec-12 18:23:37

Umm, you do realise that no one is going to force you (or anyone else who is straight) to marry a gay member of your sex. 'Special meaning of marriage'?? Sorry, I think that the failure rate of more than 1 in 3 marriages points to a status in trouble. I really can't see how two men or two women getting married will undermine heterosexual marriage, but then I am not homophobic.

I imagine the gay weddings will be either achingly tasteful or wonderfully camp. grin

AcidTurkishBath Tue 11-Dec-12 18:15:08

Everybody picks and chooses part of their religions. For example, one of the passages against homosexuality in the bible is right before a rule about cross-breeding. Do Christians object to labradoodles (or most flowers nowadays) on the whole?

CatWithKittens Tue 11-Dec-12 18:13:01

Annie - You are absolutely right the Act does not define consummation and, as you say, an unconsummated marriage is voidable not void. The failure of the Act to give a definition is simply because, just like ecclesiastical law before it, the common law provides one so there was no need for the Act to do so. Current law requires penetrative sexual intercourse for consummation. The clear requirement for and definition of consummation is therefore enshrined in law. The consultation document does not deal with this at all simply suggesting that the Courts will have to determine what constitutes consummation for same sex marriages. I suspect that the heterosexual male judges who sit in the House of Lords may well foresee some difficulty with that and want it defined by Parliament

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