So today the new Civil Parterships Act comes into effect in the UK. The Beeb calls them Gay Weddings, but even their FAQ on the matter admits they’re not.
Before we get too het up on the marriage/not marriage distinction, though, the reasons civil partnerships are not marriage are:
- They can be conducted in private. Civil marriages are public matters, with both partners signing the register simultaneously and saying certain words. A civil partnership is formed when the second partner signs the papers, even if that happens at a different time or place than the first signature.
- There is no religious connotation to a civil partnership. In this land of the established church, a Church of Scotland minister can officiate at a wedding and have it be binding. S/he cannot do the same for a civil partnership. (This does not ban religious ceremonies for civil partnerships. Ministers of non-established churches – and mosques, and temples – have religious ceremonies for weddings, but the legal marriage is not formed without intervention of a registrar.)
- No one wanted to be the politician who legalised gay marriage.
Nonetheless, I’ve skipped through most of the Act, and it’s all there. Formation, dissolution, degrees of relationship, adoption, intestacy, insurance benefits, next of kin, pension rights, immigration… Most of the text of the law is actually a series of insertions, reading over and over again, “For ‘husband or wife’ read ‘husband or wife or civil partner’.”
On the surface, looking out over the nation today, all is quiet. No one much was talking about civil partnerships, though all the papers had stories on the subject. The chat at the office was about the lack of large cups at the coffee cart, who was getting kicked off of the reality TV show, and of course the weather.
But the first ripples of change are coming. Asda will apparently be stocking “Mr and Mr” and “Mrs and Mrs” cards. The Times has added a Civil Partnerships column to its “Births, Deaths and Marriages” page. My employer posted a vocabulary chart for the new terminology (“divorce” is now “divorce or dissolution”) so that our personnel forms can be updated consistently.
And the world spectacularly failed to end. I didn’t really expect it would, just because more of my fellow travellers on the biggest adventure of my life are now share my rights.
But I admit I had hoped for some dancing in the streets.