Response to the Isle of Man Equal Marriage Consultation – Draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Manx Rainbow Association would like to inform everyone that a response to the recent Consultation on Same-Sex Marriage has been submitted.

The MRA also contacted several UK political organisations (LGBT and Human Rights charities and trade unions) to make them aware of the consultation and to ask for their support.

Here is our submission:

Response to the Isle of Man Equal Marriage Consultation – Draft Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Lee Clarke – Director

The Manx Rainbow Association (MRA) is a local Manx charity that seeks to organise, serve and advocate for the Isle of Man’s Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender (LGBT) community. The MRA opposes all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender.

The MRA recognises that marriage is an important institution in the Isle of Man. The principles of long-term commitment and responsibility that underpins marriage bind generations together.
Marriage is also an institution that has a history of continuous evolution. As society has changed, so marriage has changed to become available to an increasingly broad range of people. During the course of the 19th century, many iniquities in marriage were removed. The 20th century saw great battles about the status of women within marriage. These have now been resolved: married men and married women are now equal before the law. Now, in the 21st Century, it is available to all those over 16 who are prepared to make vows of life-long fidelity and commitment. Therefore, marriage has been an institution that has changed much over the centuries and is in almost every respect an inclusive institution. Except, that is, if your partner is of the same sex.

Since 1836, in the UK, marriage has been a civil institution as well as a religious one: the State recognises equal rights in all aspects of civil life and cannot justify preventing people from marrying owing to couples being same-sex. We disagree with arguments that marriage will be weakened in substance or meaning by opening the institution to same-sex couples. It is our view that with the passing of these proposed changes and the resulting registrations the institution would only be strengthened.

The introduction of Civil Partnership in 2011 was certainly an important step forward for the island, but the fact that same-sex couples are excluded from marriage remains. For the MRA, extending marriage to same sex couples is all about how society treats its citizens – we are all equal and this should include equality under the law as a principle of good governance in a democratic and free society.

For those in love, marriage is considered by many to be an essential step in making the ultimate and most significant commitment to one’s partner. This commitment is no different in quality or strength for same-sex couples than for opposite sex couples. Therefore, the MRA believes that marriage should be opened up to same-sex couples to allow people to meet their needs by making this form of commitment.

Freedom of religious belief is as important to the LGBT Community on the Isle of Man as equality for all before the law. Both the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights put the protection of religious belief in this matter beyond doubt. Therefore, religious and belief celebrants should not be forced to conduct rites that are against their beliefs. However, religious and belief celebrants should have the right to conduct rites and ceremonies according to their beliefs.

Civil registrars should not be permitted to opt-out of their duties in conducting same-sex marriages owing to personal beliefs. A person’s beliefs, regardless of their content or societal acceptance, should not interfere with the performance of a registrar’s duties in offering a public service. Enabling a refusal to conduct same-sex marriages would constitute an acceptance of homophobic beliefs and practices that would have a detrimental effect on the dignity of members of the public and government workers. The provision of a public service must be free from discrimination as would be compatible with principles of Equality and Diversity.

The MRA believes that civil partnership must be made available to opposite-sex couples.
Currently, a person undertaking and declaring that he or she is in a civil partnership effectively results in a declaration of their sexual orientation. As an organisation that supports equality, we believe that this should also apply to opposite-sex couples. Unless the law is changed, civil partnerships will result in legal inequality for opposite-sex couples whose needs in having their relationship recognised are not met by marriage. Crucially, the law should be changed owing to the issues for transgender people having to end their civil partnerships to gain gender recognition were they not to convert their relationship status from civil partnership to marriage.

The MRA would like to thank the Isle of Man Government for its attention to these necessary changes to Marriage and Civil Partnership legislation in the interest of legal equality for all Manx citizens.