As anticipated the United Kingdom’s Government Equalities Office has launched an equal civil marriage consultation.

The purpose of the 3-month long consultation is to seek the views of the public in England and Wales “on how we can remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage in a way that works for everyone. …Quite simply put, if commitment and marriage is a good thing we should not restrict civil marriage to opposite-sex couples.”.

Specifically, the government is proposing to:

  • enable same-sex couples to get married in civil ceremonies.
  • retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples, including the ability to have a civil partnership registration on religious premises (on a voluntary basis and retaining the ban on any religious elements forming part of the registration).
  • allow transsexual people to change their legal gender without having to legally end their existing marriage or civil partnership.
  • make no changes to how religious marriages are solumnized.
  • Click over to the Government Equalities Office Equal Civil Marriage Consultation page for documents and details.

    The Scottish government completed a consultation on registration of civil partnerships and same sex marriage late in 2011.

    Update: Response from the Peter Tatchell Foundation after the fold.

    Response to the UK government’s equal civil marriage consultation from the Peter Tatchell Foundation:

    Same-sex marriage proposals welcome but flawed

    posted by Peter Tatchell on Thu, 15/03/2012 – 12:52

    Ban on heterosexual civil partnerships will remain

    Religions barred from hosting gay marriages, even if they want to

    “While we welcome the commitment to legalise same-sex civil marriages, we are unhappy that the government intends to maintain the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships and the ban on religious same-sex marriages, even if faith organisations wish to conduct them. This is not equality. It perpetuates discrimination,” said human rights campaigner and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, Peter Tatchell.

    He was commenting on the government’s announcement today of the start of its consultation on legalising same-sex marriage.

    “We are concerned that the Equalities Minister is unwilling to end the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships. True equality means allowing gay couples to have a civil marriage and straight couples to have a civil partnership,” added Mr Tatchell.

    “Under government proposals, gay couples will have two options: a civil marriage or a civil partnership. Straight couples will only have the option of a civil marriage. Maintaining this discrimination against heterosexual partners is unacceptable.

    “Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be opened up to all couples, without discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    “We believe there are a sizeable number of heterosexual couples who would prefer a civil partnership, on the grounds that it is more modern, egalitarian and has none of the patriarchal history of marriage. In the Netherlands, where both civil marriages and civil partnerships have been open to all couples for a decade, two-thirds of civil partnerships involve heterosexual men and women. If UK civil partnerships were open to heterosexual couples we would expect a similar take up.

    “The government has announced that it will maintain the ban on religious same-sex marriages, even if faith organisations wish to conduct them. The Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism want to perform same-sex marriages. The current law says they can’t.

    “The government plans to maintain this prohibition. This is not only homophobic but also an attack on religious freedom. While no religious body should be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, those that want to conduct them should be free to do so.

    “Having last year allowed religious organisations to host civil partnerships in places of worship, it seems inconsistent to now deny religions the option of hosting same-sex marriages,” said Mr Tatchell.

    Note to Editors:

    The Equal Love campaign is pressing the government to end the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships, and to allow religious organisations that support same-sex marriages to conduct them.

    http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/equallove and www.EqualLove.org.uk

    “We are seeking to open up civil marriages to same-sex couples and civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Our goal is full marriage and partnership equality, without any discrimination based on sexual orientation,” added Mr Tatchell.

    “In February 2011, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples, sponsored by the Equal Love campaign, filed a historic joint appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). http://www.petertatchellfoundation.org/sites/files/Equal-Love-Application.pdf

    “Our appeal argues that Britain’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships amount to illegal discrimination, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The bans violate Articles 8, 12 and 14 – respectively the right to privacy and family life, the right to marry and the right to non-discrimination,” he said.