In 21st Century Britain we’re more than ready to extend marriage rights to same sex couples. Liberty is delighted that the Coalition has committed to do just that with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament.
Liberty welcomes this Bill as a historic step in the right direction for
marriage equality. We are supportive of provisions in the Bill which
will give those religious denominations which support equal marriage the opportunity to marry same-sex couples in accordance with their religious beliefs and traditions. Whilst no faith group should be forced to marry a same-sex couple, those that wish to do so should not be prevented.
Sadly there remains one obstacle to full marriage equality in the Bill.
Currently the Bill contains a clause which would perpetuate inequality in the provision of occupational pension schemes for same-sex couples by allowing pension providers to pay far lower survivor benefits to same-sex civil partners and spouses than to straight spouses.
Liberty has drafted a suggested amendment to the Bill which would remove a directly discriminatory provision which currently allows employers and pension providers to treat married couples and civil partners differently on pension rights. Our amendment would ensure equal treatment for all civil partners and spouses, irregardless of their sexual orientation.
We believe only with these changes can we achieve true equality.
The Government says equalisation of pension provisions would entail unforeseen costs to pension schemes, but Liberty believes this is no justification for discrimination.
Gay employees pay into their pension schemes in the same way as everyone else and their spouses and civil partners should be entitled to the same benefits as their straight counterparts - it's a simple matter of fairness.
Email your MP and ask them to support an amendment which would at last ensure true equal treatment for gay couples.
Tell them about John
John’s situation was clearly discriminatory – he had paid into his pension scheme in the same way as his colleagues, yet his life partner is entitled to just a fraction of the survivor benefits of a spouse.
If John dissolved his civil partnership and married a woman today, she would be immediately entitled to a full spousal pension in the event of his death.
It is disappointing that John’s employer and pension provider are appealing this decision and that the Government is attempting to perpetuate this inequality in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.
We've come a long way
In the last few decades we’ve come a long way from the bad old days when people faced regular legal and societal discrimination because of their sexual orientation. The New Labour Government deserves much of the credit for this: equalising the age of consent, legalising same-sex adoption and introducing civil partnerships, not to mention passing the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 which have together helped to ensure that our rights and freedoms receive equal protection regardless of sexual orientation.
The Coalition Government is now continuing the good work with the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill. The Bill allows for same-sex civil marriage and same-sex marriage in places of worship – without obliging religious denominations to hold such ceremonies.