By George Caffrey
Are you straight, white, middle class and feeling left out because everyone else has found a reason to complain about discrimination? Well never fear, there is a brand-new opportunity for you too to insist that people fight for your right not to be treated equally. Despite a hard-fought, well-earned victory for gay rights activists in securing rights to same-sex marriage instead of the watered-down version ‘civil-partnership’, there is now a campaign to open-up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.
On 2nd November Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan will appear at the Court of Appeal seeking to have the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships lifted and the campaign group ‘Equal Civil Partnerships’ will be there to show their support for the cause.
One would have thought that once same-sex marriage had been legally approved, civil partnership would become redundant. Indeed, the figures largely bear this out. In the first year since the passing of the Equal Marriage Act in March 2014, there were over 7,000 new same-sex marriages officiated with roughly the same number converted from existing civil partnerships. New civil partnerships however dropped by 70%, with only just over 1,000 new civil partnerships being formed. (Source: ONS) This is even less surprising when you consider that the legal distinction between marriage and civil partnership is so small that it is very difficult to pinpoint any significant differences other than the name. (Click here for the government’s attempt to articulate the difference.)
Strictly speaking of course, these ‘equality activists’ have a point: if we are going to have marriage for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, the same should apply to civil partnerships. If it were up to me, we would just do away with civil partnerships. We have equal marriage; we don’t need a parallel system.
My issue though is not so much with the logic of the case as the inclination. This case seems to be much more about publicly signalling a commitment to equality and fighting discrimination than it is about actually doing anything useful. We seem to be awash with people who feel the need to display to the world how much they care about injustice. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough flagrant injustice to meet the demand, at least not in this country. It’s for this reason that we end up with people desperately trying to seek out examples they can frame as bigotry or discrimination so that they can claim victimhood and then bask in the inevitable social cachet that follows. Frankly, those that have brought this case should feel ashamed at wasting the court’s time and the tax payers’ money in their quest to feel like a victim who is fighting against the oppressive government. We need to get some perspective and realise that this is not a great human rights issue. While there are real injustices in our world, and clearly there are many, these pedants are working tirelessly to create trivial new issues so they can complain about how aggrieved they are. Let’s not give them the attention and prestige they crave. Instead, we can get back to things that actually matter.