Monday, 1 August 2011

Oh, Stonewall....

an opinion piece for BiMedia:

The UK's leading "lesbian, gay and bisexual" (according to its Christmas cards) charity Stonewall has published its response to the government consultation on reforms to marriage and civil partnership legislation. It seems that bisexuals have dropped off the Stonewall radar once again.

Stonewall have published their draft submission to the Coalition Government's review of the restrictions on marriage and civil partnership.  The submission form first asks for comments about marriage reform to open it up to same-sex couples, and then goes on to the subject of civil partnerships and whether those should be open to mixed-sex couples.  In the UK at present civil partnerships are only open to same-sex couples, and marriage only open to mixed-sex couples.

Stonewall's submission begins:
Stonewall seeks to secure marriage for gay people as a civil vehicle on the same basis as heterosexual marriage, available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it. We seek to retain civil partnerships for lesbian and gay people recognising their special and unique status.
And it carries on in that vein. Indeed, after talking only and quite explicitly about lesbians and gay men over marriage reform, the Stonewall submission then responds to a question on Civil Partnership by declaring that as this only affects heterosexual people, it's a matter for them of which Stonewall therefore has no opinion, thus:
This is a matter for heterosexual people and Stonewall would recommend consulting with them and stakeholder organisations representing them.

And, er, that's that.

Newsflash, Stonewall: bisexual people get married. Bisexual people get civil partnerships. Some of the bis who do the one would like to do the other, in either direction, but the law won't let them.

A charity claiming to give voice to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, really ought to be listening to and giving voice to those bisexual people too - even when it does make the answer on a form a little more complicated.

Come on. A campaigning group that was working for lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights, would be able to remember bisexuals existed all the time rather than just now and then.

And the most frustrating thing is, in discussing the marriage / civil partnership divide that currently exists, bisexuals are a brilliant case to cite for what's so broken. Ten years ago, bisexual people found their relationships were treated differently in law based on the genders of themselves and their partners: today, after so much equality campaigning and the introduction of civil partnerships, that situation is exactly the same.

Bi people get into relationships with lesbians, gays, straight people and other bis.  Gay and lesbian people get into relationships with bis.  We are your queer family.  And LGB equality is only worthy of the name if we break down the barriers around civil partnerships as well as marriage: campaigning and lobbying for anything less puts the lie to a claim to be campaigning for equality for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.


  1. Indeed, I'm a bisexual man and married. I wasn't allowed the option of a civil partnership, and had I been trying to marry a boyfriend I would not have been prmitted that either.

    Before civil partnerships I know that my mother would look upon a married partner as permanent, valid. She'd have seen a male partner as "just a fling" or "a .. you know .. friend". Now that we have civil partnerships she's described them as "pretend marriages" or "friendship ceremonies".

    We were not equal before, and if Stonewall has their way we'll be not equal after. If they're standing up for our rights can someone ask them to stop? "This is a matter for heterosexual people" is incredibly insulting and belittling and exactly the sort of bi-invisibling behaviour that they claim to be trying to stop in others.

    The government questionnaire has more awareness of bisexuality than Stonewall - it mentions us precisely once in a question that Stonewall managed to tick without any evident sense of irony.

  2. "If they're standing up for our rights can someone ask them to stop?" - I agree.

    Maybe we should have a 'letter-to-Stonewall writing' workshop at Bicon?


  3. While I totally agree with everything you've said, and am pretty disgusted with Stonewall on this, I would also say the questions were worded really stupidly:

    Question 5: Should civil partnerships be extended to heterosexual people?
    Question 6: Should civil partnerships be retained for same-sex couples?

    Why is question 5 about heterosexual people, and question 6 for same-sex couples??

    The issue is that bisexual people currently have to choose to appear to conform to one sexuality or the other in order to have a ceremony, when actually it is just that particular couple that conforms.

    If we had "equal marriage" and "equal CP" (or just religious and civil) for all, then bisexual people wouldn't have to 'be' straight for one ceremony or 'be' gay for another.