‘Separate but Equal’ ≠ Equal

Last year, my mum got remarried. Having split up with my father back in 2005, she had met a nice man, they’d lived together for a number of years, and decided that they wanted to celebrate their relationship by getting married. But when I was asked to be a bridesmaid, my heart dropped. Not because I didn’t want to help them celebrate their special day – but because I knew that when I walked to the alter of the church, that would be the only time I could ever actually walk down the aisle in a church. 

Am I religious? That depends on your definition. I was baptised as a baby, and grew up frequenting the Church of England at various big holidays like Christmas and Easter. I’d accompany my mum and grandparents to midnight mass before Christmas, and these days we all go to the Christmas day service in the church my mum and stepdad married in. I can recite the Lord’s Prayer, I don’t need the hymn booklet to give the appropriate replies during the service. Do I go to church every week, do I pray every night before I go to sleep? No. But, if I were straight, I’d have no qualms with organising my marriage in that Church.

But I’m not.

girl giving a reading in a church for a wedding

I, like all of the other lesbian and gay couples in the UK, can’t get married. Does it bother me that I can’t get married in a church? Well, yes, a little – (especially as the above is a church which remarried a couple who had both been married before and got divorced) but it bothers me more that I can’t get married at all. Were Stacey and I to get engaged and start planning a wedding, we couldn’t call it a wedding, officially. We couldn’t be called ‘brides’ in the ceremony. She wouldn’t become my ‘wife’. We couldn’t sing hymns, or have readings which have any religious references, or religious symbols.

Do all these things bother me? Yes. I could deal with not being able to sing hymns or read parts of the bible – I do know that the Church of England doesn’t exactly approve of my sexuality (which is another rant altogether) – but not being able to call her my wife? Having readings vetoed because they’re deemed to have religious connotations? That upsets me. Those who are against ‘gay marriage’ quite often pull out the ‘separate but equal’ card.

Separate but equal message on yellow t shirt

“A Civil Partnership between two guys or two girls offers exactly the same rights and responsibilities in the eyes of the law and the government that Marriage does!” they say. But if they really are so ‘equal’ why is there any need to keep them separate? A quote from Evan Wolfson of the Freedom to Marry group in the US said ‘Marriage… is a civil union; but a civil union [civil partnership], as it has come to be called, is not marriage”. And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? We may have all the rights and responsibilities in a civil partnership, but we don’t have what they have. We don’t have marriage.

The ‘separate but equal’ argument really upsets me. It upsets me that some people think that I’d be happy to settle for ‘separate but equal’ in any area of my life, but particularly in response to my love. Because at the end of the day, the tax breaks and ability to adopt children together and sharing of pensions and next of kin rights – yes, I do want all of those things. But more than that, I want my relationship to be recognised as exactly the same of the relationship of any straight couple – love is not ‘separate but equal’. LOVE IS LOVE. 

The UK government (and the Scottish Government) is / has organised a consultation into public opinion on ‘gay marriage’. Popular opinion suggests that changes will be made to law to allow LGBT couples to get married by 2015 in the UK. I welcome this change – but reading articles and comments (like this one on the BBC News site) – still manages to upset me. So many people think that we should be happy with this ‘separate but equal’ measure we currently have – and I just want to ask them, would you be happy with it if you were in my situation?

I know a lot of the bloggers I follow are in the midst of planning weddings, or have recently gotten married – please feel free to leave your thoughts below, respectfully.

Carley xx


7 Comment

  1. Hi girls!!

    I definitely agree – Sarah and I aren’t religious in the slightest, and I don’t mind not being able to do the church/hymns thing (I don’t want the institution that DOESN’T want me to be able to get married to have any part in my wedding day) but I feel it’s completely offensive that we can’t use the words wedding, brides, etc. I guess because before Sarah, I always thought I’d marry a man, so I dreamed of the big white wedding, and now that I’ve found the woman of my dreams, I want to make her my WIFE and my BRIDE!! I know they are just silly words, but it does mean a lot. Especially because we’ve never been comfortable with the word ‘partner’ to refer to one another – its too ambiguous haha!!

    I’d love for 2015 to be the year the UK accepts gay marriage – we need a big influential country to catch up to the times, in order to set an example for other places around the world! We haven’t looked into it in that much detail yet, but we think we will get legally married somewhere in the EU like Sweden, so it should count as civil partnership in this country, and then have our ‘white wedding’ in my home state – because it is nowhere near legal, we should be able to say what we want – in essence, its a celebration of our love!


    Laura xo

  2. Carley says: Reply

    I completely understand the desire to have a big white wedding Laura – before Stace, I’d only ever dates guys, and my wedding was always important because my mum has always worked in the bridal trade – she’s now a manager of a bridal store and I’ve even worked there!

    I love my girl to bits, but reconciling that with the fact that not only can I not get married in the place I want, but I also can’t use the same terminology as everyone else? It’s disgusting. It makes me mad, and sad and actually really disappointed in the people who can’t see that they’re disagreeing with an actual human right.

    I’m hoping that Scotland leads the way in the UK and makes a change – I’ve lived here for almost 6 years now and would happily marry here, and the SNP are pretty forward thinking on this one! However, I won’t marry until I’m convinced that this whole ‘separate but equal’ thing has been quashed – there should be no need for a ‘civil partnership’ for LGBT people, nor should ‘gay marriage’ even exist. Love is love and marriage should be marriage, with no terms and conditions attached!

    Carley xx

  3. Cori and I are not religious either but it would still upset us if we couldn’t have certain readings or symbols because we are in a same-sex relationship. It takes away your choice and that is never a good feeling. We hope that the UK can back away from the “separate, but equal” way of thinking soon. Change is way overdue. Xox

  4. Carley says: Reply

    It frustrates me because people are saying ‘but marriage and civil partnerships are already the same!’ but if you reply with ‘then why can’t we call them the same thing?’ they go off on rants about religion and the sanctity of marriage and how it’s not FAIR for gay people to force churches to marry them! Not FAIR?

    Like Laura, I don’t want to be married by someone who doesn’t want to marry me, but being able to call my girl ‘bride’ or ‘wife’? That’s pretty necessary to what I want, and I HATE that people say that my desire for that is ‘not fair’ on them.

    *end rage*


  5. […] written before about how ‘separate but equal’ is a load of rubbish; if you have to keep things separate then it’s not equality at all – but that’s […]

  6. […] Sometimes said by those who genuinely are just uninformed, the claim that civil partnerships ARE weddings was used worryingly often in the marriage debate. Unfortunately for the anti-equality brigade, there are real differences between a marriage and a civil partnership – starting with the fact that they are called different things! Even if there was not ONE difference between marriage and civil partnerships, just calling them different names makes them unequal. As I’ve said before, ‘separate but equal ≠ equal‘. […]

  7. […] shouldn’t surprise anybody that if I ever get married, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world other than St Andrews. I dream about […]

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