News Blog It’s 2017, and we still can’t put mothers on marriage certificates 28 MARCH 2017BY ADRIENNE BAMBERGER Here’s a sample marriage certificate. The basic format hasn’t changed since it was first introduced in 1949. Observe the boxes marked father’s name and surname and rank and profession of father. There is no space on the certificate for the mother’s name and last name, nor her rank and profession. Moreover, this certificate does not account for same-sex partnerships, gender-fluid parents, or non-binary people. Various people have tried to get this anomalous anachronism changed, without success. MODERNISING CIVIL REGISTRATION LEGISLATION MAY TAKE TIME, BUT IT'S VITAL WE SEEK IT In 2002, Labour recommended a modernisation of legislation with regard to civil registration. One of the proposals was to have both the names and occupations of the father and mother of the bride and groom included on the marriage certificate. In publishing the White Paper, the Government indicated that its intention would be to make use of the Regulatory Reform procedure to introduce the necessary legislative changes. After examining and scrutinizing submissions, both the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee and the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee decided that the proposal was not an appropriate subject for a regulatory reform order and it did not proceed. As stated in the referenced reports, the concern was not about the appropriateness of the proposal; it was a procedural concern. When reading the reports, it is easy to see how complex, technical, and sadly tortuous the process of amending and rewriting legislation can be. This doesn’t mean, of course, that change should not be sought – rather, it means that efforts must be determined, repetitive and often prolonged to achieve the desired results. CALLING FOR CHANGE ON MARRIAGE CERTIFICATES A petition on Change.org in 2014, started by Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, collected 70,600 signatures. The petition said ‘marriage should not be seen as a business transaction between the father of the bride and the father of the groom’. Prime Minister David Cameron promised that he would address ‘inequality in marriage’, adding that the exclusion of mothers’ names from marriage registers in England and Wales did ‘not reflect modern Britain’. Unfortunately, Mr Cameron resigned from office and the Home Office rejected the proposition, stating that ‘the Government could not agree with the proposed change as it did not incorporate those with “different family circumstances”.’ Other politicians have also sought to amend the law on this point. Between 2014 to 2016, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tabled three Early Day Motions calling for mothers’ names to be included on marriage certificates. Labour frontbencher Christina Rees’ Private Member’s Bill also called for this. Conservative Caroline Spelman’s PM Bill wanted marriages listed in a single electronic register, as an alternative to marriage register books. REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGE BILL 2016-2017: MOVING FROM PAPER TO AN ELECTRONIC REGISTER Edward Argar proposed the Registration of Marriage Bill in June 2016. His bill seeks to update the Marriage Act of 1949, utilising the move from a paper-based system to a central electronic register online, which would allow the mother’s name to be included. Mr Argar said: ‘The whole point of this bill is the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom will be registered. In the great scheme of things it’s a minor change, but it’s symbolically very important for a large number of people who want a recognition of the role their mother played in their upbringing.’ The bill had its second reading in January this year, but has yet to have a date set for its detailed committee stage. A spokesman for the Home Office said it wanted to see mothers’ names recorded on marriage certificates ‘as soon as possible’. Whilst this is certainly progress, Mr Argar’s bill does not go far enough. Society is always in a state of flux, and the notion of simply allowing mothers’ names to be added will not keep abreast of changes. Any amendments to the way marriage certificates and records are produced, completed and stored needs to be future-proof. To that end, record-keeping and documentation should be thoroughly updated to take account of the standards of our present-day progressive, LGBTQ-friendly society. It shouldn’t matter about the gender or sexual orientation of your parent/s; only that you are their child. My petition on the UK Government and Parliament Petitions website calls for an amendment that will change the name fields for parents to two gender-neutral fields. This will allow any parent to be named on a marriage certificate, irrespective of gender and/or sexual orientation. The fields on the certificate should simply say: PARENT ABOUT AUTHOR Adrienne campaigns for equality for all, and started a petition on the UK Government and Parliament Petitions website calling for an amendment to change the name fields for parents to two gender-neutral fields. She believes any parent should be able to be named on a marriage certificate, irrespective of gender and/or sexual orientation.