Yvette Cooper: Saturday will be a time to party and toast equal rights and equal love

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Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper writes for PinkNews of how delighted she is at the prospect of gay couples marrying across England and Wales at the stroke of midnight.

It’s time to party. Nine months after the equal marriage bill, the first same-sex weddings are a great chance to toast not just the happy couples, not just equal rights, but equal love.

Thank you to Sheffield, Brighton, Westminster and Birmingham and the many venues staying open to mark the midnight moment. For Kyle and Richie tying the knot in Sheffield, and the many other same-sex couples getting married, I hope they enjoy every happiness.

Many people told me before the debates in Parliament last year how much they saw it as a family thing – as one man told me, it’s about being able to get married just like his parents, or another said, having his relationship valued by society in the same way as his sisters.

Some opponents on the radio today were still arguing that this would threaten so called “traditional marriage.” Nonsense. Marriage has rightly changed through the generations so women are no longer treated as property, and can no longer be legally raped by their husbands. And it’s right it should change again now. Because at its core is the idea of love and commitment, that determination, whether gay or straight, to cherish and grow old together.

Many of those who opposed civil partnerships in the beginning have accepted the sky didn’t fall in, and support them now. I hope they will swiftly do the same for equal marriage too. And I hope the Church of England and other religious organisations will come to change their minds and follow the lead of the Quakers, Unitarians and Reform Judaism in supporting equal marriage. I agree with Alice Arnold (writing in The Telegraph) – gay marriage should no longer be news, but a feature of everyday life all of us in Britain can take for granted.

And with that legal battle won, we must then keep up the campaign here and abroad for full equality. We know too many young people still face homophobic bullying at school, so we need to change attitudes to stop children experiencing this horrible discrimination. And Britain needs to be leading the fight for equality abroad, standing up to governments in places like Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and all the places where LGBT people are persecuted and imprisoned.

We should pay tribute to those organisations, like PinkNews and Stonewall, who campaign tirelessly against discrimination of the LGBT community. Without their incredible work, equal marriage would never have been passed. And their campaigns are still as important now.

So, as we toast the couples who get married tonight, let’s also raise a glass to equality – the battles won and the campaigns yet to come.

Yvette Cooper is the Shadow Home Secretary.