In this week’s five-minute think piece, I discuss the links between two protected characteristics – marriage and civil partnership, and religion and belief.
Since 2014 we’ve had marriage equality in this country, right? Wrong! Yes, same sex couples gained the right to marry, but marriage is still only possible for couples. Polygamy is still not allowed. This should be addressed, and protections extended and specially designed for those poly relations as well. For example, marriage equality rights should ascertain that polygamous marriages sufficiently protect women from abuses.
Why is polygamy not allowed? Some say that it’s because it’s not Christian (but for example, Muslim), some say it’s because it’s not practical and opens the nation to a lot of abuses and economic burdens, like immigrations, social benefits and pensions (as if monogamous marriages didn’t do that already), and some say that it’s unethical. The latter notion is based in thinking that polyamory is somehow morally inferior to monogamy. Now, polyamory is not the same as polygamy, but if we assume that love is a key part of marriage (call me naïve), then polyamory should be the key in polygamy as well. Polyamory means that one is able to have feelings for more than one person at a time. Who doesn't really - you love your parents and your siblings with the same familial love - that's not cheating. Polyamory doesn't mean that one sleeps around and can't commit or that they are going to be happy only in a throuple (three persons in one relationship). Polyamory is not about being reckless, promiscuous and “having it easy” - it’s just as much about commitment and richness of emotions as a monogamous relationship. Polyamory means being realistic about how emotions work for a given person and not letting the society shame them into anything they don't feel comfortable with. Polyamorous persons do know how to build strong relationships. They may be happy with one person for some time or maybe they’ll be happy with many. There's a variety of forms of polyamorous relationships. The key is communication and agreement on what all the parties involved want.
By the end of 2019 heterosexual couples will be able to enter into civil partnerships…. The question is: what’s the difference between marriage and civil partnership? On a legal level virtually zero. It’s more of a cultural thing. Apparently, civil partnerships don’t have the same links with patriarchy or religion as marriage does…. The thing is marriage has never been a strictly religious concept to start with. In Ancient Greece it was a pact between two people (or more like families) to increase wealth, influence, and power, with few emotional ties. And early Christianity didn’t actually like marriages at all.
In the current law there is no distinction between a Christian marriage, a Sikh marriage, a Muslim marriage (including polygamy), civil marriage, etc… if we are truly concerned with equality, we should recognise them, with their specificities, as different forms of marriage… then we probably wouldn’t have the need for civil partnership which is equal to civil marriage, as both would be one and the same, free of patriarchy and religious connotations. Instead, civil partnerships in the UK could be more like those in France or Germany, which are easier to get into, easier to get out of, offer some benefits, but not all of what marriage offers.