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Separate Not Equal 
13th-May-2009 02:47 pm
I have a confession to make: I don't care about MP's expenses. I really don't. I don't care how much they spent and whether it was legal or moral or a massive waste of taxpayers' money. And I don't want to know why I should care, OK?

I do care about what the way in which the Telegraph has been talking about particular MPs reflects on the situation we're in socially, particularly in the recognition of same sex couples.

The Telegraph's original item was headlined: Ben Bradshaw: Mortgage bill paid on home part-owned by boyfriend. Where 'boyfriend' refers to Bradshaw's civil partner; which under UK partnership law is to all extents and purposes his husband. Using a word that colloquially means something more casual than boyfriend clearly indicates a demeaning of the relationship.

The meat of the article is basically that once he was legally partnered, Bradshaw used his living allowance to pay the interest on the mortgage - the complete mortgage, not half of it. The same paper covering David Cameron applauds the Tory leader for 'only' claiming on his mortgage interest: the exact same claim that Bradshaw was making. The only difference? Cameron is married to a woman. Skim down the Telegraph's PAGE OF DRAMA about the expenses: they don't complain about married MPs supporting their spouses..

And the Telegraph can get away with this - and a similar story about Nick Herbert - because they don't have to acknowledge that Civil Partnerships are legally in every way the direct equivalent of a marriage; because it's not called marriage, because use of that word would somehow cause the Church of England to explode, then people talking about it can happily assume that 'partners' are something less important and not deserving of the same respect of 'spouses'.

There's also nothing for reminding oneself of the general social inequality pervading our society like reading the comments on political blogs: Sundal Kundar mentions that Bradshaw has a point crying homophobia, and he gets this comment:
How do you know Bradshaw is the 'husband' and not the 'wife'?
And as for Liberal Conspiracy... I gave up when I realised the whole thing was being derailed by semantics junkies who apparently don't understand how the English Language functions. I wonder if anyone's told material scientists that they're 'illiterate' by implying oil has a psychological disorder about water?

I do think legal recognition for any group is the first step; because as long as any harmful behaviour is legal people are going to use that as an excuse for their hate, but it has to be true legal equality. This whole debacle illustrates that for me: while the UK legal status of Civil Partnerships is better than, say, the restrictions DOMA puts on actual marriage created in certain US States, it's still not equality.
13th-May-2009 02:10 pm (UTC)
I was having this argument the other day with someone who's mostly pretty sensible, but doesn't realise that absolute equality in name as well as legal status is important, and I was having difficulty making a convincing argument without concrete evidence. Which you have now provided! I thank you. I shall pass it on.
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