Guest post: Civil partnerships and the NUS

Katie Sutton reports on the NUS LGBT Campaign’s annual conference

Last weekend, the NUS LGBT Campaign held its annual conference in Nottingham, to elect officers for the 2009/10 academic year and vote on new policy, which I attended as an observer in the role of the bisexual rep elect on the committee for the NUS Women’s Campaign.

Many of the motions passed without much debate, including policies on improving mental, physical and sexual healthcare, gender-neutral toilets in further education institutions, opposing Miss University pageants, and equal maternity and paternity rights. Within the Society & Citizenship Zone, a motion was put to Conference entitled “Civil Partnerships are Civil!” which called for support for the Scottish Equal Marriage Campaign, recognising that the “separate but equal” system of marriage for heterosexual couples and civil partnership for same-sex couples was not, in fact, equal.

Whilst I supported this motion in theory, I submitted a procedural motion – a suggestion regarding not Campaign policy but to do with the way Conference runs – to ask that the question not be put to Conference, and that it should instead be rewritten and sent to the LGBT Campaign Committee, because, despite its good intentions, it was worded amazingly exclusively: I counted seven references to gay men and gay women, but not a single mention of bisexual or trans people. Unfortunately, delegates weren’t interested in hearing the case for the procedural motion, and with the against speech having already been taken by another delegate who spoke about marriage being heteronormative, I had to request an extra round of speeches, which sadly was also rejected. Conference duly passed policy which superbly recognised the inequalities faced by gay men and lesbians, but lightly skipped over bisexuals and trans people as if they don’t want equality, or worse, don’t exist.

I later spoke to the author of the motion to explain my complaint, and they said that they would make a statement to Conference and change the wording to be more inclusive, but the statement was never made. As for the change to the policy’s wording, time will tell.

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