The bill to introduce marriage for same sex couples is at report stage in the House of Lords this week, 8 and 10 July 2013.
UNISON cares about marriage equality.
It matters for the individuals concerned but also has far wider ramifications in the message it sends about LGBT equality.
We have pushed the bill to introduce same sex marriage, giving evidence to Parliament, briefing our linked MPs and contacting supportive members of the House of Lords.
We want to see the bill become law, but have three concerns:
First – we are working with Liberty and the TUC to promote an amendment giving equality to same sex widows and widowers.
The government claims that ensuring survivor benefits are based on all of a member’s contributions to their pension scheme (rather than just those since 2005) would be impossibly costly.
But they have failed to justify this claim and UNISON has provided Labour with pensions experts’ views that the claim is unjustifiable.
Labour’s Lord Alli has retabled the amendment for debate this Wednesday. The Labour spokesperson in the Lords, Glenys Thornton, has commented:
“I suspect the House will have a great deal of sympathy, and unless some accommodation is reached, the matter could lead to parliamentary ping pong”.
Secondly, we are making clear our opposition to any opt-out for civil registrars who have personal beliefs against same sex marriage.
Registration of lawful marriages is a public function that must be delivered without discrimination.
Our members who are civil registrars have spoken powerfully about how such a refusal not only impacts on those wishing to register a civil partnership.
It also impacts on the dignity at work of other civil registrars – including those who are LGBT. We have passed their experiences to the Labour MPs and peers working on the bill.
Finally, we call for both civil partnership and marriage to be available to all couples.
We welcome the concession already won from the government on this.
The government has agreed to consult on the future of civil partnerships in England and Wales.