A new project will soon by coming to Project Shandy called ‘Kate’s Advice Bureau’, as nicknamed by my friends Rachael and Sammi.

This project came about because, quite simply, I got into a mess.

I lost track of my payments when I lost my job and it took a long time and a lot of courage to get my finances untangled and everything pointing the right way again.

While going through this process, I learned a lot and learned it the hard way. I particularly learned about my legal rights and what I was/wasn’t allowed to say or do regarding my finances, my relationships with creditors, my dealings with credit reference agencies and my ability to be contacted by such organisations.

I didn’t learn any of this in school. The vast majority would have been infinitely more useful than the things we did in PSHE such as hair care, personal hygiene and skin care. It’s time to share some of this through a regular series of short articles, facts, figures, laws and regulations with a big sprinkling of anecdotal and personal experience.

As with all my blogging projects I’m keen to hear from you if you’ve got experiences in these areas that you want to share!

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The legalisation of Gay Marriage

For background for the Americans on my list – the UK already legally recognises gay partnerships, they are called Civil Partnerships. This week, there has been a lot of press about our Conservative government (traditionally anti-gay) wanting to legalise Gay Marriage. It’s been debated in Parliament and the Church of England and the Church of Wales in particular, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, are strongly against it. The current draft of the Bill would ban those churches from conducting gay weddings, whilst giving other religions the choice to ‘opt in’ and ensuring that no faith would be forced into this provision against their doctrine. Civil licensed places would have to make provision for gay marriage ceremonies if they offer straight marriage ceremonies (hotels, football stadiums, conference centres, etc). A Civil Wedding in the UK cannot have any religious reference, music or reading within it.

There’s been a lot of debate about this, and I’ve made some of my comments on here before but I ended up making some extended comments on FB on a friend’s wall which I want to throw out to Tumblr. So I am going to copy and paste them here.

I am in favour of civil partnerships being given the same legal title as the relationship with follows a civil wedding – for the moment, that’s marriage. In the same way, I’d be happy to see civil marriages re-classed as partnerships. I think either way, the legal terminology has to be the same. Because if they’re not named the same, they will not be treated the same way by a large proportion of society.

I remember when the legislation went through and my uncles undertook a civil partnership, the same year as you and [your wife] did, and I referred to my summer as ‘full of weddings’. My mother rather spoilt things for me by saying ‘I *do* wish you’d stop referring to these things as weddings and marriages, they’re not the same and never will be’. Quite a shock from my (I’d always thought) liberal minded mother. She’s far from the only one, and not the most influential one, to hold that view, and this is the mainstay reason behind my support for the Marriages (same sex couples) Bill.

It’s not because I think people in CPs are any the less devoted or committed, or any such nonsense as this idiotic MP seems to think, but because I am tired of seeing a large number of people preen themselves by having (what they see as) a justified reason to draw a line of difference. People keep saying ‘But CPs are just the same as marriages’ as justification for not changing things. But if they are the same, why do they need a different name? – if that’s true, then let’s call a spade a spade and give them the same name, one way or the other. Civil Partnerships for all, or Civil Marriages for all. What a religion chooses to bless or not bless, recognise or not recognise, is their own affair and should not be confused with a legal equality.

My friend, whose wall I was posting on, asked if I thought that calling a Civil Partnership a Marriage would have stopped my mother from holding that view.

Honestly, I think it would have stopped her making the comment, which is one step in the right direction. Having a different name for a ‘civil partnership’ plants that little seed of doubt in the minds of those who find change – any sort of change – uncomfortable. And yet if they were made to face change – they would eventually accept it. I imagine that there were many people who viewed marriages conducted as registry offices as ‘not real marriages’ for several generations, but these days there are very few who hold that view thankfully. One of the ways to combat any form of prejudice is to highlight similarities and stop highlighting differences, and stopping giving things different labels when they are essentially the same thing is a key part of that.

I was having a think about this on the way home and I ended up drawing some comparisons with racism and the civil rights movement in America, particularly when it came to segregation of facilities and rights. “Why do you want to use our facilities when you have access to your own?’ said the Whites to the Blacks. And it was an argument that held sway for a long time. Weren’t black people just being greedy, wanting what white people had in addition to their own provision? Never mind that the provision was a shabby, falling apart, undervalued mockery of the facilities offered to Whites. It’s not a genuine provision for your rights if it marks you out as second class. If it marks you out as ‘different to standard’. It’s the same argument being used against Gay marriage now – “Why do you want marriage when you already have civil partnership?” – ie, why do you want what WE have when we’ve already provided you with something different, but close enough to stop most of you going on about it?

So long as gay legal unions are called something other than a marriage, when the first thing people are asked about a relationship status is ‘are you married or single’, the longer that being gay will be classed as ‘other’ or ‘alternative’ or ‘abnormal’ in the general subconscious, and the longer that prejudice will continue against people who are gay, on a subtle and embedded level.

The senior Tories who are campaigning against Gay marriage being legalised are amongst the worst bigots that I’ve ever encountered, for my own standards. I see them as worse than some members of the BNP in some ways. Why? Because they are determined that anyone who loves a person that shares their own gender cannot be considered ‘normal’. And by continuing to mark out any recognition of their union as different to what we would consider ‘normal’, they are – as [your wife] said – continuing to mark people out as second class citizens.

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