Given the lack of controversy about civil partnerships among the British public, it is now clear that the concept of the public formalisation of gay relationships has become publicly acceptable. There is therefore no longer any reason for the state to discriminate between the its recognition of gay relationships and straight ones. The state should withdraw from involvement in marriages altogether, and should recognise only civil partnerships, for both gay and straight.

If faith bodies wish to continue with marriages, that would then be entirely their concern, and it would be up to them to decide whether or not to require a civil partnership to also have been concluded as part of what they regard as a valid marriage.

Marriages that pre-exist this change would, of course, have to be recognised by the state as civil partnerships.

Why is this idea important?

The idea of the state's function being identical with those of faith traditions is out of date. It is a respected part of our country's heritage, but it does not any longer reflect who we are as a people.

It would be much more truthful for the state to be properly secular, and then it would be free to conduct good relations with as many or as few faith communities as it wished on any given issue, without bias or favouritism.

This would overcome the current nonsense of the state determining whether gay partnership ceremonies can include religious elements, or not.

And it would meet the fundamental requirement of a modern civilised society, that of equality, both between gay and straight, and between the various religions present in society.

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