Sarah Brown (auntysarah) wrote,

Marriage Equality

At the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool, on Tuesday morning, there was an hour long debate on marriage equality. This was a motion put forward by DELGA, the Lib Dem LGBT group (I've just been elected to their executive for 2011), and it does several things:
  • Extend marriage to same sex couples

  • Extend civil partnerships to mixed sex copules

  • Allow religious ceremonies for same sex marriage, at the discretion of the particular religion

  • Through amendment to the motion, allow for secular marriage celebrants as an alternative to registrars

  • Repeal the section of the Gender Recognition Act that makes it a requirement to dissolve a marriage or civil partnership before a GRC can be issued
I think this is all excellent stuff, and I'm very proud of my party for passing the motion with barely any opposition. It's now the first time a party in government has had marriage equality as a policy in the UK, and we will be pushing for this to be given legislative time in this parliament, so it would hopefully become law within the next five years.

Anyway, I put a card in to speak, specifically on the parts that pertain to modifying the GRA. They only had time to hear from one trans person, and the one picked wasn't me, but since I wrote a speech in case I was picked, it would be a shame for it to go to waste. Here, for your reading pleasure, is what I would have said (live on national TV even), had I been picked to speak:

Good morning, conference! In 2001 I was married to the woman I love. Yes, you did hear that right. At the time we both knew I was gender variant, but in 2005 I finally realised that I could not keep up the charade of pretending to be male, and that I had to undergo gender transition and so-called "sex reassignment". My wife, who is bisexual, and with whom I was still deeply in love, supported me in this. Early in 2006 I started hormone treatment, and a year later I underwent sex reassignment surgery.

However, the state, while having issued me with a driving licence and passport identifying me as female, still regarded me as ultimately male, and this meant that I was denied certain rights enjoyed by most people in society. Were I to be found guilty of a crime and receive a custodial sentence, for example, I could have been sent to a male prison, and I can't even begin to contemplate the consequences of that.

However, thanks to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, people like me are able to regain some of those basic rights that we lose through gender transition. By undergoing the process to obtain a gender recognition certificate, someone like me could be registered fully as female, and enjoy rights and protections that others take for granted, but which transgender people lose when we undergo transition.

There is one catch - married people are prohibited from using this process. Instead, the state requires us to divorce, obtain a gender recognition certificate, and then if we wish, re-register our relationships as civil partnerships.

This I did in 2009. By going through a mind-boggling piece of bureaucratic acrobatics, our marriage was voided and just over a week later, we underwent a civil partnership. The woman who used to be my wife is now my civil partner. There are not many people in the UK in this position, but we are slowly increasing in number, and will continue to do so while this legislative situation exists.

I want to explain how I felt when a circuit judge issued a decree nici and pronounced our marriage voided. What we had told ourselves was a simple matter of paperwork, surprised us both by making us feel that something vital had been torn away. We left the county court holding hands, both in tears, and barely left each other's sight until the date of our civil partnership. Those few days hurt more than I care to remember.

When a registrar finally said, "I now declare you civil partners", part of that feeling of hurt went away, but part remained - it was as though our eight years of marriage counted for nothing, and from the state's point of view that's close to reality - it is very much as if they never happened. Those words, "I pronounce you civil partners" felt like they were designed to put us in our place, to remind us that we were somehow less, that we no-longer deserved to call ourselves married, that we were second class citizens.

Conference, I believe it is intolerable that the state effectively blackmails transgender people in happy marriages into divorce, putting us in the impossible situation of having to chose between our marriages and our human rights. This is completely iniquitous, and arises as a side effect of a knee-jerk reaction against the possibility that two people of the same sex could ever be married, even if it's only a tiny number through a technicality of gender reassignment.

Conference, I ask you to end the injustice that marriage inequality does to transgender people in this way; I ask you to support this motion. Thank you

Also posted at - you can comment here or there.
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