Newlyweds release doves after their wedding at Festival House. Photo: Getty Images
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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 For many people, including the seventy thousand people who signed the campaign, this outdated segment of the marriage process was viewed not only as a symbol of the oppression of women, but also a reflection of how casually society considers women's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!”

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The most terrifying thing about Donald Trump's speech? What he didn't say

No politician uses official speeches to put across their most controversial ideas. But Donald Trump's are not hard to find. 

As Donald Trump took the podium on a cold Washington day to deliver his inauguration speech, the world held its breath. Viewers hunched over televisions or internet streaming services watched Trump mouth “thank you” to the camera, no doubt wondering how he could possibly live up to his deranged late-night Twitter persona. In newsrooms across America, reporters unsure when they might next get access to a president who seems to delight in denying them the right to ask questions got ready to parse his words for any clue as to what was to come. Some, deciding they couldn’t bear to watch, studiously busied themselves with other things.

But when the moment came, Trump’s speech was uncharacteristically professional – at least compared to his previous performances. The fractured, repetitive grammar that marks many of his off-the-cuff statements was missing, and so, too, were most of his most controversial policy ideas.

Trump told the crowd that his presidency would “determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come” before expressing his gratefulness to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for their “gracious aid” during the transition. “They have been magnificent," Trump said, before leading applause of thanks from the crowd.

If this opening was innocent enough, however, it all changed in the next breath. The new president moved quickly to the “historic movement”, “the likes of which the world has never seen before”, that elected him President. Following the small-state rhetoric of his campaign, Trump promised to take power from the “establishment” and restore it to the American people. “This moment," he told them, “Is your moment. It belongs to you.”

A good deal of the speech was given over to re-iterating his nationalist positions while also making repeated references to the key issues – “Islamic terrorism” and families – that remain points of commonality within the fractured Republican GOP.

The loss of business to overseas producers was blamed for “destroying our jobs”. “Protection," Trump said, “Will lead to great strength." He promised to end what he called the “American carnage” caused by drugs and crime.

“From this day forward," Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first."

There was plenty in the speech, then, that should worry viewers, particularly if you read Trump’s promises to make America “unstoppable” so it can “win” again in light of his recent tweets about China

But it was the things Trump didn't mention that should worry us most. Trump, we know, doesn’t use official channels to communicate his most troubling ideas. From bizarre television interviews to his upsetting and offensive rallies and, of course, the infamous tweets, the new President is inclined to fling his thoughts into the world as and when he sees fit, not on the occasions when he’s required to address the nation (see, also, his anodyne acceptance speech).

It’s important to remember that Trump’s administration wins when it makes itself seem as innocent as possible. During the speech, I was reminded of my colleague Helen Lewis’ recent thoughts on the “gaslighter-in-chief”, reflecting on Trump’s lying claim that he never mocked a disabled reporter. “Now we can see," she wrote, “A false narrative being built in real time, tweet by tweet."

Saying things that are untrue isn’t the only way of lying – it is also possible to lie by omission.

There has been much discussion as to whether Trump will soften after he becomes president. All the things this speech did not mention were designed to keep us guessing about many of the President’s most controversial promises.

Trump did not mention his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, nor the wall he insists he will erect between America and Mexico (which he maintains the latter will pay for). He maintained a polite coolness towards the former President and avoiding any discussion of alleged cuts to anti-domestic violence programs and abortion regulations. Why? Trump wanted to leave viewers unsure as to whether he actually intends to carry through on his election rhetoric.

To understand what Trump is capable of, therefore, it is best not to look to his speeches on a global stage, but to the promises he makes to his allies. So when the President’s personal website still insists he will build a wall, end catch-and-release, suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” “where adequate screening cannot occur”; when, despite saying he understands only 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood services relate to abortion and that “millions” of women are helped by their cancer screening, he plans to defund Planned Parenthood; when the president says he will remove gun-free zones around schools “on his first day” - believe him.  

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland