Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Count Down to a (Same-Sex) Wedding #1

7 Weeks to Go

I haven't blogged much yet about the wedding, because there's really not been much to say. We've booked stuff, organised people, bought gorgeous dresses, and dealt with various big-and-small issues along the way. We're down to the fine detail now though (7 weeks yesterday) so I thought I'd start talking a bit about it.

Next week I'm going to blog about the wedding process itself, but today I'm going to talk about Civil Partnerships.

You see, according to British law, what we're having is not a wedding, and what we're creating is not a marriage. We're having a Civil Partnership Ceremony, which leads to a Civil Partnership.

Now, you might say (as a great many have done): what's the big deal? It's only words.

Yes, it is only words... and this is an argument that can be applied equally to both sides of the debate. It's only words- so same-sex couples shouldn't care. But, it's only words- so the religious right shouldn't care.


Civil Partnerships are a compromise. Right now they're a compromise for which I am grateful: it would be extremely difficult to marry form a lifelong legally recognised partnership with my darling girl if they didn't exist. (Leaving aside the fact that a dozen or so countries have introduced marriage for same-sex couples on equal legal and semantic footings and their societies haven't imploded, of course). But it's a compromise that mystifies me.

Let's imagine for a second that most world religions dictated that some people could own cats, and some couldn't. After many centuries, people realised that this cat rule kind of sucked. Non-cat people were clamouring for cats, and cat-owning people were coming to see just how stupid this was, especially when many non-cat people had been keeping cats in secret for years anyway. There needed to be an overhaul, but a tiny vocal minority of cat-owning people were predicting mass moral confusion and social disruption if the rules were relaxed (and asking why non-cat people would want cats anyway since they clearly rejected the faith of the Cat-Dictating God...).

So, a committee (it would have to be a committee) came up with a solution.
"Right," they said. "Here's the deal. You non-cat people can keep cats legally. We'll give you paperwork and everything. But... you're not allowed to call them cats. You have to call them Fur Covered Individuals. The sanctity of the word 'cat' is preserved for the traditional definition of cat ownership, but we wish you many long and happy years with your Fur Covered Individuals."

Who'd want to refer to their cat as a Fur Covered Individual for the rest of their life?

Who'd think that their god was stupid enough not to see through the deception?

That's the bit that mystifies me. Civil Partnerships are marriages. Civil Partnership Ceremonies are weddings. They do exactly the same things, excepting only the gender of the participants. If they are truly abhorrent to anyone's deity then nothing but a couple of flimsy bits of terminology stand between us and a thorough smiting. Using different words means nothing and fools no one.

So, whence this compromise? Is it born out of a belief that people really can fool their god by putting different labels on things? Is it a desperate sop to try to appease people who really do believe that smiting is on the menu? Is it a stubborn resistance to change, or a fear of the unknown? Is it simply prejudice, sanctioned and legalised as so many previous prejudices have been?

I have no idea, but it both amuses and annoys me that my lovely wedding and marriage have these artificial labels slapped on them. Poignantly pointless!


Hey, it's Bethany (formerly BSchoer10 from BtN!). I've gotten rid of Facebook so I figured commenting on here would be the best way to contact you.

Regarding this post, I don't think the majority of people truly understand how discourse affects public attitudes to topics such as this one. Phrasing something even slightly differently to its original term can have an immensely positive or negative effect on society. Ergo, a very thought-provoking post we have here :)

Congratulations on your engagement (and impending union!) and hope we can talk in the near future!
Hi Bethany! So nice to hear from you and thanks for the comment. Send me an email sometime (my email address is in the contact link) :)

You're absolutely right about the messages that semantics send. It's a very subtle and insidious way of saying "not quite right" or "not good enough" and that has an enormous effect on public acceptance. It also has a knock-on effect on the feelings and mental health of the people affected, and when you're doing it to a group who are already considered vulnerable due to the prejudices they face, that effect can be devastating.

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