At the beginning of this week, there were a spate of letters in the Guardian on the subject of civil partnerships. One of them nearly prompted me to writein response, and the only reason I didn’t was that a previous letter of mine on the same subject was printed just a couple of months ago. I did remember, though, the name of the letter’s author: Denise Pfeiffer. Well, with a surname like that it sticks in your head.
In today’s Evening Standard, along with a typically sensible and reasoned letter from Jonathan at overyourhead.co.uk, Denise Pfeiffer’s at it again. Now, as far as I’m aware, the letters page doesn’t go on the internet, so I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing it. Here it is, in full (although I suspect, from my own and Jonathan’s experience, that the Standard have edited it down for length):
The Government is giving homosexual couples the same legal rights, pension, immigration and tax benefits as married couples, but where does this leave heterosexual couples who do not want to go through the process of affirming commitment through a religious or a civil marriage?
What about spinsters and bachelors in sexless partnerships, or elderly same-sex relatives who have bought a house together and have looked after each other for years? Is the Government saying that these types of relationships shouldn’t receive the same legal rights as homosexual partnerships? The one thing gay civil partnerships have not brought about is equality.
Denise Pfeiffer, Leicester
It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer to her first question. Where does it leave unmarried straight couples? Exactly where they were before. If they can marry, but choose not to, then they have a legal equality with gay couples who can choose to marry under the Civil Partnerships Act, but choose not to. It’s a choice. It’s fantastic. If you choose not to, then fine. But starting this week, for the first time, we get the same choice. Deal with it.
Terrance, as usual, says it best (although he’s the first to admit he’s reiterating Jonathan Rauch):
If people want to strengthen marriage, then it would be much more effective to let same-sex couples marry and send the same message to everyone: if you want the rights and priviledges of marriage, get married.
So, let’s be clear. [Straight unmarried couple] Madner and Schreiner, and couples like them aren’t losing any rights. They’re losing an alternative to marriage, but they still have the right to get marriage and enjoy the benefits thereof. They still have the priviledge of having more options in protecting their relationship than same-sex couples do.
This whole thing irks me. There is a whole coterie of people who rise up against gay couples getting any form of legal protections, and yet call themselves Christian. And yet, what they are doing is ensuring that people at their lowest ebb – when they or their loved one is ill, incapacitated, dying – are more vulnerable than they need to be. That’s not Christianity, that’s the complete opposite.
Incidentally, it turns out that Denise has her own Wikipedia entry! Rather coyly, she describes herself (oh come on, who else is going to write about her?) as “press officer for a UK media watchdog” – sounds really official, doesn’t it? Almost like she works for Ofcom or something. In actual fact, it’s MediaMarch – which Nick Barlow describes, quite aptly, as occupying “the part on the Venn diagram where Mediawatch and Christian Voice intersect”.