Thursday, 28 February 2013

Adultery is only for Heterosexuals

The Equal Marriage Bill has already caused a lot of controversy, at least for some people, as it is about redefining what marriage is about: the union of a man and a women. It seems a simple debate between those who think people who identify as gay should be able to marry each other, and those who don't. Yet, in this argument we are glossing over the small print of the law which, just like on contracts, really should be read before anyone signs on the dotted line.

As Ann Widdecombe, a politician who has raised a few eyebrows in her lifetime, points out, there are a few strange details that need to be looked at. For instance, while separation seems to be still allowed for both heterosexual and homosexual couples, the circumstance are not quite the same. Two straight people who want to get an annulment can do so if they have not consummated the marriage, but two gay people will not have that privilege.

In fact, although I don't like to agree with Ann Widdecombe more than I have to, she has pointed out that the law will treat straight and homosexual couples very differently. It will all be done under the pretence of equal marriage, but it will in fact be a two tier system. 

One of the primary problems will that that of adultery, which by law is only called adultery if it is with someone of the opposite sex. This definition will not change. While marriage will no longer be a heterosexual institution, the concept of adultery will be. This means that a gay marriage could not be dissolved only on the grounds that one of the partners had not been faithful, one of the few instances where almost everyone agrees that a divorce is justifiable, although still not desirable.

The government, it seems, has decided to marry old definitions and new concepts together, something that is very hard to do when you are introducing serious reform. The Equal Marriage Bill is an unsuccessful compromise, and shouldn't really be liked by either side of the debate. It is just another example of the government failing to achieve what it actually wanted to do.

Nothing new there.

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