Thursday, 30 August 2012

Letter on Marriage Equality (UK) - An Open Letter to Mr and Mrs Curnow 

Dear Mr and Mrs Curnow,

Please accept my warmest congratulations on your recent marriage. I can only imagine the joy you both are feeling right now, knowing that you have made such a significant and universally recognised commitment to the person you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. If things remain as they currently are in the United Kingdom, I will only ever be able to imagine that feeling. You see, I am a lesbian and am therefore not legally permitted to marry the person I choose to spend my life with. I presume you must be very busy at the moment, enjoying the honeymoon period of your married life, but I hope you are willing to take few minutes to try and understand why I find it very upsetting, confusing and frustrating that you both were allowed to marry the person you chose, but I cannot.

I’m really just a regular person; I have family and friends who I love, a good job that I really enjoy and a nice, comfortable home. Sound familiar? I hope so, because I have a wonderful life and appreciate every single day how lucky I am. I have a brother who is two years older than me. When we were little we fought like cat and dog but, at the same time, we would defend one another with our lives if anyone else tried to hurt the other.

Growing up, our parents always treated us equally; no favouritism, no stereotypes, just love. Since I could walk, all I ever wanted was to have a ball at my feet. My brother was quieter than me but in time developed confidence as he started to write and perform music. We were always encouraged to follow our dreams and passions and were told that nothing was beyond our capabilities if we gave it our all.

Our parents also imparted in us a keen sense of justice; of right and wrong. When asked what she wanted for our futures, our mum would simply answer that she hoped we would both be “happy, healthy and well-adjusted.” Now that we are a bit older and hopefully a bit wiser, my brother is my best friend. And, in somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy, we are both all of those things our mother wished. Yet in the eyes of the law we are not equal.

My brother and I have always been quite similar; we both love music, we both like Chinese food and we are both attracted to women. The fact that he is male means that, when the time comes, he can marry the woman of his dreams. The fact that I am female means that I cannot. As someone who was brought up by a family who surrounded me with the values of love, justice and equality, that really hurts. I cannot wait for the day to come when my brother marries the woman he decides to spend the rest of his life with and am sure that he would equally love to see me marry the person I choose; but at the current time, only one of us has that right.

I understand that you recently delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street that held the signatures of 500,000 people, on behalf of The Coalition for Marriage who believe that marriage should remain as only existing between one man and one woman. I watched with great sadness as a beautiful bride and handsome groom, who have recently embarked on the journey of married life together, chose to spend what is surely one of the happiest times of their lives delivering a petition that is ultimately designed to deny that right and that happiness to others.

I have read and listened to many arguments from those opposing equal marriage and, please believe me when I say, I respect each and every one of their opinions. With the same respect, however, I wholeheartedly and passionately disagree.

Dr Don Horrocks from The Coalition for Marriage has aired many opinions regarding same-sex marriage over the years; some of which reference polygamy and horses (but that’s another letter for another day). The issues I want to raise are with regard to the comments made by Dr Horrocks inThe Coalition of Marriage’s video posted on their YouTube account which shows you both delivering that petition to Downing Street.

In this video, Dr Horrocks said that same-sex marriage will alter the meaning of marriage. It is my belief that the meaning of marriage and what it represents will not change. The only thing that will change is that more people will be able to enter into it. With marriage being such an important institution in this country, as is being argued by The Coalition for Marriage, surely more people entering into it will only strengthen it rather than weaken it; another argument he put forward.

The other view Dr Horrocks expressed that I would like to address is that legalising same-sex marriage would result in marriage and family becoming a historical memory. Again, much to my frustration, this opinion was expressed without any justification or context.

Families in the UK come in many colours, shapes and sizes. One definition of family is “a social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.” I’m sure you will agree that a single-parent and their child or children is no less a family than one with both a mother and a father (or two parents of the same sex for that matter). It is estimated that there are around 2 million single parents living in the UK; the majority of whom I am sure are raising children who are happy and thriving.

For me, a family is a group of people, usually but not always related by blood, who give each other a sense of belonging, safety and love. The funny thing about arguing that same-sex couples will damage the lives of the children they raise is that never once has a same-sex couple conceived a child by accident. Every single gay and lesbian couple who decided to have a child together must plan for it, often in great detail; whether this is a lesbian couple who need to find a sperm donor, a gay couple who must find a surrogate mother or either of these looking to go through the lengthy and often difficult process of adoption. Every single child brought into the home of a gay or lesbian couple is wanted.

I understand that your unwillingness to support same-sex marriage may stem from your opinion that the concept is in conflict with your personal religious beliefs. I respect everyone’s right to uphold any religious views they wish, however, I cannot respect that those views should be allowed to prevent others of different or no faith to be united in marriage.

The Government’s equal marriage consultation explicitly states that, if passed in law, same-sex marriage would have to be conducted in a civil setting with no religious content. It has been argued by religious leaders that this would be open to challenge on a human rights basis, however, it is my personal view that once the equal-marriage legislation is passed, whether that is sooner or later, the best possible scenario for all would be that those faith groups who support equal marriage should be permitted to conduct ceremonies, whilst those who oppose it should have their rights to do so upheld in law.

I have heard it argued that since same-sex couples are able to enter into Civil Partnerships that there is no need to allow them to marry. There is no doubt that when Civil Partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2004 they signified a massive leap forward towards equality for LGBT people. However, I and many others feel that these are almost a second-class option. The fact that we can have legal entitlements as a couple is wonderful, but in the eyes of society it is not equal - it is not a marriage.

Imagine taking your partner to a party and being unable to truly introduce them as your husband or wife. “This is my Civil Partner” doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? It sounds almost clinical and it certainly is not equal. Mrs Curnow, I presume from your visit to Downing Street that you are interested in politics; do you think that when most women over 30 won the right to vote in the UK in 1918 that they should just have smiled, said “thank you” and accepted it? Or do you think they were right to continue to fight for equality until 1928 when all women finally gained the same voting rights as men? This could not have been achieved without their male allies and LGBT people cannot achieve true equality without the support of our straight allies.

As a newly married couple, I presume that you will be considering starting a family one day. Please take a moment to think how you would feel if your child told you that they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Believe me when I tell you that, despite having the most supportive family I could wish for, that was the single most difficult conversation of my life. Would you love your child any less? Would you want them to have equal rights to their straight brother or sister?

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and I urge you to think seriously about why you felt so strongly about denying same-sex couples the right to marry that you deemed it appropriate to dress up in wedding attire and hand-deliver that petition to 10 Downing Street earlier this week. I would love to know your thoughts on why you believe your own right to marry the person you love is greater and any more legitimate than mine.

In the meantime, I wish you both all the best in your married life together. I am sure you will experience your share of ups and downs, but I think this quotation I recently read sums it up: “if you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Whilst we appear to be travelling on different paths in our lives, I wholeheartedly hope that one day I too will be legally entitled to embark upon the same journey of married life that you both have just begun, with the person I choose.

Yours Sincerely,

Julie Price

Note: The original news report of the Curnow's visit to Downing street can be found HERE.
Update: THIS article in The Telegraph documents the many disgruntled messages the couple have since received.

Following this letter The L Project has decided to write a counter-petition, more details HERE.

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