Thursday, 17 February 2011

Equality of Marriage

Today Lynne Featherstone, Home Office Parliamentary under Secretary of State responsible for equalities and Liberal Democrat MP, announced that the government is to drop the explicit ban on Civil Partnerships in religious settings. This will allow those religious bodies (in England and Wales) that do wish to hold partnership ceremonies to do so.

The bigger announcement, however, is that the government will look at addressing the differences between Marriage and Civil Partnerships.

While a commitment to look at the issue is a long way from legislation allowing for same-gender marriage or mixed-gender Civil Partnerships, I think we can be reasonably certain that had the Conservatives (or, of course, Labour for that matter) been governing alone, this would not be on the agenda at all.

Full equality of access for marriage and Civil Partnerships was only adopted as Liberal Democrat policy adopted at the autumn conference.  Today's announcement means that the party is not now influencing government thinking just in those areas covered by the manifesto or coalition agreement but also in the development of future policy.

As we move towards the first anniversary of the government there will increasingly be issues and policies which were not in either manifesto or the coalition programme. It is reassuring therefore to see that a Liberal tone is being adopted in relation to this issue and this will hopefully apply  to other subjects too.

You can read Lynne Featherstone's blog here and you can read more on the announcement on the Government Equalities Office website.


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