Newlyweds release doves after their wedding at Festival House. Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Mothers’ names will finally be added to UK marriage certificates

The prime minister has announced that the names of couples’ mothers will now be added to marriage registers, in the first reform to the system in over 150 years.

David Cameron has pledged that mothers’ names will now appear alongside fathers’ names on marriage certificates. This will be the first reform to the system in over 150 years.

The system, which dated back to the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, prohibited mothers from providing their details and only allowed the names of couples’ fathers to be entered on marriage registers. However, the Prime Minister’s announcement now guarantees the names of couple’s mothers to be added to marriage registers.

In a speech to the Relationships Alliance in central London, David Cameron said:

We’re going to address another inequality in marriage too. The content of marriage registers in England and Wales has not changed since the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign. At the moment, they 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”

Although for some this is a minor and perhaps insignificant part of the marriage process, essentially it reflects a dark past, when women were presented as the property of men and “chattels” to be traded.

A petition created earlier this year on change.org, asked for marriage to “no longer be seen as a business transaction between the father of the bride and the father of the groom”. For many people, including the seventy thousand people who signed the campaign, this outdated segment of the marriage process was viewed not only as a symbol of the oppression of women, but also a reflection of how casually society considers women's equality.

Journalist and feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez, felt unable to marry her fiancé until the changes to the registers were made, and previously stated:

We tell women to just get married anyway and ignore what is a legal process at the heart of the ceremony – that we tell women to concern their minds only with the fluffy bits. I think we ignore the significance, underlying or not, of legal documents at our peril.”

Since the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act came into force in July 2013, not only is the new reform another victory for those fighting gender equality, but also a promising step towards modernising marriage in Britain - as now, what applies to men, will also apply to women.

This seemingly small inequality is part of a much wider pattern of inequality,” said Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, who started the petition. “Women are routinely silenced and written out of history. There is space for the name of the father of the bride and the father of the groom and theiroccupations. On civil partnership certificates there is space for mothers. On Scottish and Northern Irish marriage certificates there are spaces for mothers.”

She concluded:

 I never imagined I would get so much support and that the Prime Minister would respond to our calls -- and on my wedding anniversary! Thank you for all your support - we did it!”

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Mark Sampson's exit leaves the FA still trying to convince itself of its own infallibility

Football's governing body won't be able to repair the damage to its reputation in silence.

By the end, it appeared as if Mark Sampson was weathering the storm.

Despite personal reflections that the uproar and scandal that has surrounded his recent tenure as England women's football manger was taking a toll, he seemed, as of Tuesday night, firmly ensconced in the post he had held since 2013.

Player Eniola Aluko’s claims of bullying and racism against the coach – given little backing from teammates and, on balance, disregarded by consecutive enquiries – remained a persistent story, yet talk of a fresh investigation were trumped in importance by Sampson’s continued presence at training and in the dugout.

The BBC’s occasionally rabid attachment to proceedings gave the saga prolonged oxygen, but when Sampson seemed to retain the FA’s support – taking charge of the Lionesses’ 6-0 win over Russia on Tuesday night – the worst appeared to be over.

With hindsight, the vultures were simply sharpening their talons.

Sampson’s sacking – less than 24 hours after that Russia game – came after a report was unearthed detailing a historic complaint against him from his time coaching Bristol Academy – a job he left to take up the England post.

In what has long become customary, the FA received these claims nearly four years ago yet failed to act definitively – initially concluding that their new coach was “not a safeguarding risk”. However as the recent crisis depended, the full details of these initial accusations were allegedly not revealed to senior leadership.

Confirming Sampson's departure on Wednesday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn carried a pained expression reminiscent of former incumbent Mark Palios, who, in another entry in the annals of great FA crises, resigned in 2004 as a result of an affair with FA secretary Faria Alam.

Glenn will hope that his own head is not sought in the weeks ahead as his conduct throughout the Sampson saga is probed.

It also marks yet another turbulent 12 months for the beleaguered governing body, who almost exactly a year ago to the day, parted company with England men’s coach Sam Allardyce after just a single game in charge – the former Bolton and Sunderland coach getting the bullet as a result of transfer advice offered to undercover journalists.

The Allardyce departure was handled with uncharacteristic efficiency – a symptom, perhaps, of the initial scepticism behind his appointment rather than any particular reflection on his crimes.

With clear-eyed judgement, it is difficult not to have a portion of sympathy for Sampson – who, cleared by those investigations, maintained the very visible backing of his squad – right up until Wednesday’s bitter denouement.

That he’s been paid in full for the three-year contract signed last summer speaks for how soft a line the FA took on the events that forced the sacking – hoping, perhaps, for as quiet an ending as possible for both parties.

Regrettably, for the FA at least, considerable damage to their reputation will not be something they can repair in silence – not in an era where women’s football enjoys such a high profile in the national consciousness and the body continues to mark itself an easy target for criticism. 

The exact contents of those 2014 allegations and that report are sure to be known down the line – non-disclosure agreements willing – but are as of now only conjecture and innuendo.

Without details, it’s difficult to know how hard to judge Sampson. The facts of his performance on the pitch mark him out as having been an accomplished coach. That is no longer the exclusive measure of success.

Detractors will murmur darkly about there being no smoke without fire, while his supporters will point to the unique nature of the job and the often confrontational elements of its duties.

Sampson, at 34, is still a relatively young man and may be able to coach again once the rancour has subsided – although with a reputation severely bloodied, will look on the two-year salary windfall with some gratitude.

Despite Glenn’s insistence that his former manager is “clear to work” in the sport, it’s hard to envisage his career ever resuming in the women’s game.

The FA itself is again left rudderless as it tries to convince itself of its own infallibility. Flabby management structures and the perception of being an antiquated country club – valid or not – will be revisited with relish.

Perhaps positively, it could herald a more honest conversation behind what success looks like for the national game as a whole. Inclusiveness and development of a robust culture are often the first words to disappear from the vocabulary once on field results start to falter.  

For once, the identity of the next coach is not the urgent dilemma facing the FA.

You can follow Cameron on Twitter here.