Lynne Featherstone: Conservatives would like to do away with civil partnerships altogether

Baroness Featherstone, the Lib Dem architect of the UK’s same-sex marriage law, writes for PinkNews as a straight couple take their battle for opposite-sex civil partnerships to the high court.

During my fight to get same-sex marriage into the government program and onto the statute books there was a consistent desire from the Conservatives to get rid of civil partnerships.

In fact – the first wording that I got past the Cabinet write round (how new policy is introduced to the government program) included both same-sex marriage and straight civil partnerships.

David Cameron knocked out straight civil partnerships a couple of days before I was due to announce the new policy and the consultation at the Liberal Democrat conference of September 2011. His special advisers said that if I did not drop straight civil partnerships then he would not allow same-sex marriage to go ahead.

This is all in my book ‘Equal Ever After’ but is apposite right now as Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan take their case to the High Court on Wednesday to appeal the decision that the inequality of same-sex couples being able to marry or have a civil partnership whilst straight couples can only marry does not discriminate against them.They want a civil partnership. They want equality.

The Conservatives tried to remove civil partnerships during my same-sex marriage journey in the Home Office.

My methodology whenever civil partnerships were under threat was to stomp around the Home Office declaiming loudly how tragic it would be if the Tories in their efforts to reintegrate themselves with the LGBT community by backing same-sex marriage – simultaneously destroyed their new image by abolishing civil partnerships. I won.

Hence we arrived at marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples but only marriage for straight couples.

That’s how it happened.

In its passage through parliament and in an effort to defeat amendments calling for straight civil partnerships, the Conservatives kicked it into long grass with a review – hoping that civil partnerships might wither on the vine once marriage was introduced.

This hasn’t and won’t happen.

Some people believe in marriage and some people don’t but want legal rights. The State’s job is to facilitate both types of arrangements. It is not the State’s business to judge.

So I wish Rebecca and Charles the very best on Wednesday. I hope they win. And if they win, I hope the Conservatives gracefully introduce straight civil partnerships and drop their misguided desire to force their view that marriage is in some way ‘better’ than civil partnerships on those who disagree with them.

Baroness Featherstone previously served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities, and helped put same-sex marriage onto the statute books.