THE BLOG

Why Equal Marriage Is Not the End of the Journey

22/04/2014 16:54 BST | Updated 22/06/2014 10:59 BST

I hope that I'll fall in love some day. Whether it's with a woman or a man, you're not going to see me walking down an aisle any time soon.

I believe in an important principle: that every right and privilege accorded to heterosexual couples, should be equally enjoyed by LGBT+ couples. To this end, I welcome equal marriage and think it's about bloody time! I too scrolled through pictures of gay couples finally wedding in the UK (though let's not forget that Northern Ireland still doesn't afford all its citizens this option), and will admit to having tears in my eyes at so many images of joy.

That I'm happy that there is a degree more equality since the end of March, and that I fully support gay marriage, doesn't mean though, that I endorse it. Were I ever to choose to publicly validate my love, I wouldn't choose marriage as the institution in which to do so.

I am the product of unwed parents. They probably would have loved to have gotten married, had they been allowed. But they were lesbians, in the 1980s, and marriage just wasn't an option.

That my parents couldn't get married did not diminish their love for each other, nor my family's legitimacy. We existed as a family, with our relationships dictated by our interactions, rather than by legal statutes.

It left us in a weak legal position. Had anything happened to my birth mother, I'm not sure that my non-birth mother would have had many rights over me. So I support any measures which help to clarify familial relationships and create security for everyone involved, but don't necessarily want the patriarchal baggage and outrageous £20,000 worth of debt (the average price of a UK wedding) which comes alongside modern marriage.

In 2006, one of my mothers got civilly partnered to my new step mother. They had the ceremony in Islington town hall, followed by a party with friends and family in our garden. They will not rush to transfer their civil partnership to a marriage. Why? Because why would you want to be part of an institution which has, for so long, excluded you?

For me, marriage cannot escape its many negative connotations. Its origins lie in deep-rooted patriarchy -- the idea that women are treated as objects to be exchanged between families and clans, traded for dowries and security, gifted from father to husband and expected to serve and obey the men in their lives.

Other symbols of marriage equally point at its sexist roots. That women wear white, to signify their purity - an expectation not placed equally on the male partner (whilst this tradition started relatively recently, the symbolism remains strong.) That it is women who are "tagged" with an engagement ring - the male not identified as "belonging" to someone else so easily, the upfront financial investment indicative of the economic foundations of marriage and power imbalance.

Many people have weddings which defy these traditions, and that's great. But the societal narrative surrounding marriage is still one that teaches little girls that their object in life is to catch a wealthy man, marry him and carry his babies - her primary aspirational role that of mother and wife. And the structures in place are still inherently sexist ones which suggest that women are lesser than men. Did you know that whilst a civil partnership certificate contains the names of both parents of both parties, a UK marriage certificate only includes the names of the fathers, not mothers? And have you considered the fact that if a woman wants to take her husband's name, she needn't do anything -- her marriage certificate serves as proof of a name change. If, however, a man wants to take his wife's surname, he must apply to legally change his name by deed poll -- a much more arduous process.

So yes, I support gay marriage. But I am not a proponent of it. In welcoming a greater degree of legal equality, I think we need to be careful not to stop questioning those traditions rooted in sexism. I want the legal protections that marriage grants to be available to anybody in long term relationships - surely this is where we should focus our energy next.

The government has just run a public consultation survey on what to do about the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. They offered three options: to retain them for LGB people, open them up to everybody or abolish them entirely and convert existing partnerships into marriages. They are now analysing the results, and will be making a decision soon. So if you, like me, think we should all enjoy equality and choice, please do make your voice known in any way you can, and tell the government to expand civil partnerships so that all couples have the opportunity to commit to each other and can choose whether to do so within marriage, or outside of it.