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Sarah, The Bringer of Tea - Marriage Equality
23rd September, 2010
03:46 pm

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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 http://auntysarah.dreamwidth.org/246635.html - you can comment here or there.

(25 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:1ngi
Date:23rd September, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
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This made me cry. This was very moving - I hope everyone retweets it so that it reaches more people than it ever could at conference. It deserves to be read by everyone.

Sarah - I am so very proud to know you. *much love*
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
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*hug* Thank you sweetie.

See you shortly for more goss ;-)
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From:fyremane
Date:23rd September, 2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
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absolutley beutiful speech, a pitty they never got to hear it.

My situation is somewhat like this though also completely differnt, being Trans with a male partner who cant even have a domestic partnership in this state, let alone marry my boyfriend till after my surgery, and have my birth record amended.

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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
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What they make us go through w.r.t. marriage is cruel.
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From:gina_r_snape
Date:23rd September, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
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That was very moving. Thanks for posting it.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
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You're very welcome!
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From:paradox_puree
Date:23rd September, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious what the speech by the other trans person was about. Do you have a link?
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
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It was also on the trans marriage issue. I don't have a link, I'm afraid.
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From:woodpijn
Date:23rd September, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
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Excellent speech.

Hope this isn't too ignorant a question, but - why do they want to extend civil partnership to straight couples as well, rather than just abolishing it and having marriage for everyone? I thought civil partnership was a "second-class" thing, as you allude to in your speech, which was only invented so that gay couples could have something marriage-like which wasn't actually called marriage; so if gay couples were allowed to be married, what would be the purpose of civil partnership?
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From:pplfichi
Date:24th September, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
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Some kind of conversion or process for going between the two would be very useful, or maybe some way of making the two properly equivalent if that's even possible. Otherwise people who have civil partnerships will continue in many cases to leave their rights and privileges at the UK border as most countries do not recognise our civil partnerships. This can be a problem even in countries that have their own civil partnership equivalents. France was a famous example of this until they changed the law last year.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
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Some kind of conversion or process for going between the two would be very useful

I think that's envisaged. Certainly, if this becomes law, I'm having my marriage back.
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From:celesteh
Date:29th September, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
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Couldn't they just stop issuing new civil partnerships? Then people who already have them can keep them.
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From:hilarityallen
Date:23rd September, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Also, there are people who aren't particularly happy with the idea of marriage as an institution because of its historical anomalies and assumptions - e.g. there's still a strong assumption that women may want to change their names after marriage, but men won't. A civil partnership would allow these people a state-sanctioned 'thingy' that gave access to survivor's benefits and so forth, but didn't come with the baggage and assumptions that marriage does.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I think Andrew says everything that needs to be said on this one.
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From:hilarityallen
Date:23rd September, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I love the speech, and go the Lib Dems for passing the motion!
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
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Ta :-)
From:marthatgo
Date:23rd September, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
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very very moving, and such a shame that you werent chosen, it is really good writing. Can I make it into a Facebook note? (full attrib of course) or would you like to? If so could you please link me. This should have a wider readership than even the many who read your LJ! You will I am sure know that 150 or more comments on the Pink News article bombing Summerskill were deleted.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
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Sorry for the delay in replying - have been rather busy. You absolutely can - please go ahead!
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From:valeriekeefe
Date:24th September, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
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Very moving and eloquent, Sarah.

I have nothing more to add.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
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Thank you.
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From:pplfichi
Date:24th September, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
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meep. That was very moving. Shame you didn't get to speak. I really hope the Lib Dems manage to overcome any Conservative opposition and get parliamentary time so this can become law.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
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I'm cautiously optimistic that it will happen.
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From:notinventedhere
Date:26th September, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Sarah - if the coalition can get Civil Partnerships extended to mixed sex couples, I'll be first in the queue! Very best of luck to you, DELGA, and the Lib Dems for all the points on your list. I hope the other person who spoke had a statement as good as yours.
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From:auntysarah
Date:28th September, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. I guess it's now "watch this space"
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From:celesteh
Date:29th September, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
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This is really moving. I hope they pick you to talk next time.
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