Virginia Utley works as secretary to a Catholic Bishop.

An open letter to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Dear Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne,

I know you are busy and so I am sorry to bother you, but please could you tell me what a ‘family’ is? I know it has changed since it was a mummy and daddy who were married and had children – that was easy!

Now, I have heard, there are quite a lot of different kinds of family. They say that boys who didn’t really want to marry girls got cross and said they would like to marry boys and likewise some girls wanted to marry girls!

So you said they could have something very like being married but not quite – because of course boys couldn’t really marry boys and girls couldn’t really marry girls.  So you said they could be ‘civil partners’. Then, they got cross again – even crosser this time – and said that they definitely wanted to get married like boys and girls were allowed to.

So, after a bit, you said: ‘Yes, OK, so long as you love each other, why shouldn’t you? Marriage is a good thing.’ So then there were boys with boys and girls with girls in civil partnerships and boys married to boys and girls married to girls. And of course there were still boys and girls married to each other just as they always were.

Now, this is where my question comes in. I have a sister and we both think boys are very nice, but neither of us met one we liked quite enough to marry – or maybe we were not quite nice enough for them to want to marry us!

So my sister and I bought a house together and have lived happily in it for years and years and years. We have a nice little garden and two cats and my sister actually has a child as well. (She didn’t quite mean to, but we both love the child very much and she lives with us and loves us very much too.)  So, as I said, this is my question: please can my sister and I get married. Yes? If no, please can we have a civil partnership. Yes?

The thing is that there are so many good things that go with being married and unless I can get married to my sister I can’t have any of them! For instance, as you know best of all, when one person who is married or in a civil partnership dies the person who hasn’t died can have the house without having to pay any tax. And then when the other person dies the child can have the house without paying very much tax

But if you don’t let us get married and you don’t let us become civil partners either, we are in big trouble if one sister dies. That’s because the sister who hasn’t died will have to move house to pay the tax. Then where will she live, and where will the cats and the child live? And what will happen to the nice little garden?

So you can see why we will both be cross if we can’t get married or have a civil partnership, just like all those I mentioned earlier were very cross with you. But I am sure you will not say ‘no’ to us when you said ‘yes’ to all the others. Because that wouldn’t be fair, would it? No. We want you to say we are a family, too. Yes?

Yours hopefully,

Virginia Utley