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Mothers’ names on marriage certificates

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marriage certificates, mother's name, Caroline Lucas, David CameronWhy is the government doing nothing?

It’s been two years since David Cameron pledged to add mothers’ names to marriage certificates – so why hasn’t it happened yet?

In 2014, more than 70,000 people signed a petition asking for mothers names to be included on marriage certificates along with the names of fathers of the bride and the groom.

As a result, David Cameron announced that he would address this “inequality in marriage” and acknowledged that “the content of marriage registers in England and Wales hasn’t changed since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign”.

Speaking at a Relationships Alliance summit, the Prime Minister said: “At the moment, they [marriage certificates] require details of the couples’ fathers, but not their mothers.

“This clearly doesn’t reflect modern Britain – and it’s high time the system was updated. So I have asked the Home Office to look at how we can address this.”

But, two years later, nothing has been done.

In December last year, the Home Office rejected a proposal to add mothers’ names to marriage certificates because it did not take gay couples into account, and said that assuming that all couples have opposite-sex parents is exclusionary.

Home Office Minister Richard Harrington said that the proposed Bill did “not take account of different family circumstances, where there may not be a mother and father”.

He also claimed: “after we have amended the law, the matter may not be looked at again for another 100 or 200 years, so we have to get things right”.

However, Green MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas, who tabled an early-day motion (EDM) calling for change on the issue last September, claims that whilst it is true that the proposed Bill did exclude same-sex couples, it is an “incredibly simple thing to address”.

When asked by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray what she was asking for in her motion, Lucas told her: “I was asking for the rules to be brought up to date, for the whole system to be dragged into the modern world, and for people to be able to put their mothers’ names on marriage certificates. I simply cannot understand why there is still so much delay and foot dragging.”

And speaking about the issue of people with same-sex parents, Lucas said: “Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP, brought forward a very practical suggestion of how you would deal with that, simply by bringing the rules around marriage certificates into line with the way in which civil partnerships are already dealt with in England and Wales.

“This would simply mean that you would replace the marriage certificate registers with an electronic register. This has all kinds of benefits in terms of flexibility, being able to reflect whatever the particular situation is, and it also means that there’d be less administration and it would be cheaper.

“It’s already done for civil partnerships, and even for marriages in Scotland. It isn’t rocket science.”

A change in the law was expected to be announced in last month’s Queen’s Speech, but the issue of adding mothers to marriage certificates didn’t get so much as a mention.

This begs the question, does the government really want to implement this change?

The issue has been raised time and time again since the petition and the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2014, and a Conservative MP has even offered a simple and efficient solution – but still nothing.

If Scotland and Northern Ireland have already done it, why can’t England and Wales? You’d think that the government would be eager to pass a bill that is relatively straightforward and would be popular with many.

In the meantime, women continue to be written out of history, and mothers can still only have their name on their child’s marriage certificate if they are a witness.

As things stand, marriage certificates are sexist, outdated and unfair, and I for one certainly won’t be tying the knot until both of my parents’ names can be on the certificate.

Let’s hope that 2016 will be the year that mothers finally get the recognition they deserve.

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