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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2004 to 2010: Increasing support for
same-sex marriage in the UK
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2004 to 2010: Gallup Corporation reports on same-sex marriage:

In 2004, Gallup reported that support for same-sex marriage (SSM) was:

  • In the UK: 52% support; 47% oppose; 1% have no opinion or did not respond
  • In Canada: 51% support; 47% oppose; 2% no response.
  • in the U.S.: 35% support, 62% oppose; 3% no response.

Data was taken at a time when SSM was available only in a few Canadian provinces, and about a 14 months before the UK made civil partnerships available, and five months before Massachusetts same-sex couples were allowed to marry -- alone among the American states.

By 2010, support and opposition to SSM in the U.S. were evenly matched at 50% with support steadily increasing.

On the topic of civil partnerships (a UK term) or civil unions (a U.S. term) which would give loving committed same-sex couples rights equal to marriage without the ability to refer to their union as a marriage:

  • In the UK: 65% support; 31% oppose; 4% have no opinion or did not respond
  • In Canada: 63% support; 35% oppose; 2% no response.
  • in the U.S.: 49% support, 48% oppose; 3% no response. 1

By 2009-AUG, support for civil unions in the U.S. had risen considerably: 57% in favor to 37% opposed.

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2008-OCT-26: Sex poll provides lesbian & gay data:

The Observer newspaper published the result of a poll on sexual behavior and beliefs. It was copied by The Guardian. Some of the data reported include:

  • 6% of Britons identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.
  • 13% have had some form of same-sex sexual behavior.
  • Opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped from 50% in 2002 to 45% in 2008.
  • Opposition among men is 55%; among women is 36%.
  • 24% believe that same-sex behavior should be criminalized, up from 23% in 2002. 2

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2009-JUN-10 poll by Populus:

An opinion poll was prepared for The Times by Populus Limited in 2009-JUN. They asked whether the subject agreed or disagreed with the statement: "gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships."

  • Agreed: 61%;
  • Disagreed: 33%;
  • Refused to answer: 2%,
  • Don't know: 4%

The usual gender and age influences were observed:

  • Males agreed 55% and disagreed 39%.
  • Females agreed 67% and disagreed 27%.

  • Adults aged 18 to 24 agreed 70% and disagreed 29%.
  • Adults aged 25 to 34 agreed 78% and disagreed 19%. This is over a 4 to 1 ratio -- the highest that we have seen of any poll in an English speaking country.
  • Adults over 65 years-of-age agreed 37% and disagreed 52%.

One interesting result is that a majority of adults (53%) who intend to vote for the Conservative Party agreed with SSM. Voters for the other parties were 64% for labor and 73% for Liberal Democrats. 9 With these levels of support, the government would be foolish if it were not to introduce SSM into the UK.

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2010-APR-11: Tory (Conservative) party to consider making same-sex marriage available:

George Osborn who would be chancellor if his party formed the UK government, said that the Tories would be "very happy" to consider same-sex marriage if elected. He said that the party has changed and that "we have real policies to advance equality." 3

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2010-SEP-21: Liberal Democratic party supports same-sex marriage (SSM):

The Liberal Democratic party's conference in Liverpool formally endorsed same-sex marriage by overwhelmingly voting in favor of a motion titled: "Equal Marriage in the United Kingdom." They were the first major party to do so in the UK.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Liberal Democrat:

"... members supported a motion arguing that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was 'unconscionable' and incompatible with the party's support for liberty and equality."

"Delegates said civil partners did not enjoy the same rights as married couples and the UK was lagging behind other European countries, such as Spain and Sweden, which have recognized gay marriage."

" 'There should be equality,' Brian Paddick, former Lib Dem London mayoral candidate said, recalling the 'symbolism and importance' of his marriage to a man in Norway last year."

" 'If I want to marry my same sex partner, I should be allowed to'."

"As well as 'opening' marriage and civil partnerships to all couples, party members backed calls for all religious organizations to conduct both religious and humanist ceremonies in places of worship if they wanted to do so -- although stressing they should not be forced to." 4

Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the party, predicted that the government might introduce enabling legislation before the next general election. 5 He said:

“It would be appropriate in Britain in 2010 to have civil marriage for straight people and gay people equally. ... The state ought to give equality. We’re halfway there. I think we ought to be able to get there in this Parliament." 6

Whatever legislation is implemented would preserve the right of religious groups to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

The Telegraph newspaper commented:

"During the [past] election campaign, the Conservatives were the only main party to suggest that they would consider allowing full homosexual marriage. Some lawyers say that would be easier to legislate for than altering existing laws on civil partnership and civil marriage." 6

By "homosexual marriage" they really mean "same-sex marriage" which can be composed of two lesbians, two gays, a bisexual and homosexual, or two bisexuals.

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2010-OCT-19: Poll shows high level of support for same-sex marriage in Scotland:

The opinion pollsters at Angus Reid conducted a public opinion poll for the Scottish Green Party during 2010-OCT. They found that:

  • 58% of adults support making same-sex marriage (SSM) available.
  • 19% oppose SSM
  • 23% either had no opinion or gave no answer -- an unusually high number.

A 3 to 1 ratio of support to opposition is much higher than is seen in the U.S. and may even be higher than the ratio observed in Canada.

Currently, same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2005-DEC. These grant them the full benefits and protections of marriage for themselves or their children, except for the right to call their unions a marriage. To many same-sex couples, the latter is a major lacking.

Green Party member MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) Patrick Harvie suggests that with this level of support. The Scottish Parliament at Hollyrood may authorize SSM during the 2011 term. He has filed a motion calling on Parliament to:

"... investigate the practical steps necessary to allow legislation in the next session of the Scottish Parliament to create equal marriage and partnership in Scotland".

He proposes that every loving, committed same-sex and opposite-sex couple be allowed to enter into either a marriage or a civil partnership.

He said that:

"Civil partnership was an important step forward, giving same-sex couples much the same legal rights and responsibilities as everyone else. ... But there have always been some people who want to portray those couples as second-class citizens and their relationships as less meaningful than marriage, or worthy of less respect from society."

"Attitudes are changing rapidly, and with each step towards equality more people feel able to be open about who they love."

"Nowadays almost everyone knows some gay or lesbian friends and family members, and by a margin of three to one Scots support couples who want to commit to each other in a gay marriage."

"Full legal equality for same-sex couples who want to marry and for mixed-sex couples who want civil partnership instead would be much more in keeping with this increasingly inclusive Scottish public opinion."

"I believe there are enough supporters in all political parties for it to be changed during the next Parliament. Soon we will look back on the current arrangement with the same disbelief young Americans have when they find out there used to be a ban on inter-racial marriage." 7

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2010-OCT-24: Lawsuit being launched to achieve same-sex and opposite-sex marriage and civil partnerships:

Eight couples plan to apply at British register offices for ceremonies that they are currently not allowed to hold. Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriage licenses. Four opposite-sex couples will apply for civil partnerships. Peter Tatchell of the homosexual rights group Outrage! is coordinating the campaign. He said: "Our aim is to overturn both the ban on same-sex marriage and the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships."

We are at a loss to understand how the group can find four loving, committed opposite-sex couples in the UK that would want to bypass marriage and be civil partnershipped. Marriage carries with it a great deal of additional status than does a civil partnership.

Thatchell continued:

"If they are refused, as we expect they will be, we plan to mount a legal challenge. We believe these bans violate the Human Rights Act and are open to challenge in the high court. Civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination."

The first couple to apply for a marriage license will be the Rev Sharon Ferguson, 52, of the Metropolitan Church and her partner, Franka Strietzel, 49, who will appear at the Greenwich register office in London. Rev. Ferguson said:

"A civil partnership doesn't feel comfortable for me; it doesn't fit. We want a marriage – that is the institution we believe was divined by God and for me that is important, and I don't see why we should be denied it because of our gender. ... "We have a double system and we shouldn't have. That isn't equality. Love is love at the end of the day and that should be honored." 8

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Discussion on this topic continues...

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Josephine Mazzuca, "Gay Rights: U.S. More Conservative Than Britain, Canada," Gallup Corp., 2004-OCT-12, at:
  2. "Sex uncovered poll: Homosexuality," The Guardian, 2008-SEP-26, at:
  3. "George Osborne says Tories will 'consider gay marriage'," BBC News, 2010-APR-11, at:
  4. Gavin Stamp. "Lib Dems call for end to barriers to gay marriage," By Political reporter, BBC News, 2010-SEP-21, at:
  5. "Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom," Wikipedia, as at 2010-OCT-11, at:
  6. James Kirkup, "Gay couples will get equal right to marry," Telegraph, 2010-JUL-19, at:
  7. "Most Scots support same-sex marriage, report claims," STV, 2010-OCT-19, at:
  8. Tracy McVeigh, "Couples bid to overturn gay marriage law," Guardian, 2010-OCT-24, at:
  9. "Gay Britain Survey," Populus Limited, 2010-JUN-10, at:

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-OCT-21
Latest update: 2010-OCT-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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