Baroness Liz Barker: Same-sex marriage will make England and Wales a stronger and fairer place

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Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker writes for PinkNews on the introduction of same-sex marriage tonight, celebrating, but saying it gives us a chance to reflect on those who have campaigned for LGBT rights over the years, and those facing persecution around the world.

Tomorrow morning we will wake up in a new country. It is where most of us have lived all our lives, but from midnight it will be a stronger, fairer place where our relationships will no longer be second best in the eyes of the law.

We will declare publicly our lifelong commitments, and with the support our loving families and friends, we will be equal citizens.

Those of us who are Liberal Jews, Quakers or Unitarians will be able to share our joy with the congregations from which we draw strength and together we will begin a new experience of our faith. Despite the dispiriting statement from the House of Bishops on February 14th we live in hope that one day all people of faith will reciprocate our generosity to them by seeing the good in us.

Life for families and communities, especially young people, is tough. We owe it to them to build communities which are strong, confident and inclusive. Perpetuating the prejudices of the past is a waste of time, talent and resources which we cannot afford.

For all of us there will be the relief of being able to ditch the term ‘civil partnership’ – a clumsy noun and an unsatisfactory verb.

There will be flowers. There will be frocks. There will be fun. Yet in quiet moments we will also stop to remember three groups of people: those brave men and women who campaigned for equality over the years when to do so was difficult; those whom we knew and loved who did not live to see this dream become a reality; and our brothers and sisters across the world who face persecution just for being LGBT.

If Saturday is your big day, I wish you good weather. Having been together for twenty six years, my partner and I have decided not to rush it. However, being mindful that rights which are hard won can so easily be lost and with the rainbow flag flying over Nick Clegg’s office, it may be time to start talking hats.