Comment: Let’s just stop for a moment and celebrate same-sex marriage
Lib Dem councillor Mathew Hulbert reflects on the first same-sex weddings to take place in England and Wales, saying there is still more to do for equality.
Though equal marriage isn’t the end of the LGBT communities ongoing fight for equality there’s still much more to do it is, undoubtedly a wonderful, beautiful, shimmering achievement.
One which means so much to so many of us.
I occasionally get asked to go on local radio to talk about LGBT issues and, when discussing equal marriage, I’ve often been asked ‘Why is it important to you? And why aren’t civil partnerships enough? I think the answer lies not only in our desire to be treated equally with not better than our heterosexual friends, but also about our growing self confidence as a community.
Whilst recognising that coming out can still be a stressful process for many people and one which leads some to be shunned by family members and so on, it’s true to say that for most people someone’s sexuality isn’t an issue and that we can lead our lives out of the closet and be confident, indeed rightly proud, of who we are.
Civil partnerships were a good step forward ensuring gay couples many legal protections we hadn’t had before and the last Labour Government deserves credit for them, but they still made it sound as if what we were doing was something ‘other,’ not the same as getting married.
Of course some gay people will not want to be married, feeling that they don’t want to be conforming to that social norm and that’s fine, just as it’s perfectly okay for heterosexual couples not to wed either.
Marriage is about two people who love each other declaring that love before their family and friends and committing their lives to each other in the eyes of the law.
There’s been some talk in the media this week that a certain section of society continues to oppose this move…believing that marriage is and can only be between a man and a woman and for the sole purpose of procreation.
I believe such a viewpoint will, as time moves on, look increasingly like something from an age long past; society has, thank goodness, moved on and is much more progressive and, dare I say it, liberal than it used to be.
Talking of Liberals, I’m extremely proud of the part my Party and people such as Lynne Featherstone, Liz Barker, Stephen Gilbert and others, including Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, have played in ensuring equal marriage became law.
Whatever else we may say about other things this Government has done, in my view enacting equal marriage means it’s been worth my party being part of this coalition.
So, yes, there’s more to do, from ensuring more rights for trans individuals, to tackling homophobic bullying, ensuring equal marriage is enacted in Northern Ireland and standing shoulder to shoulder with our LGBT cousins in countries where to be publicly gay is to live in fear of your life.
We also need to ensure, as quickly as possible, that those couples who want their civil partnerships converted into marriages are able to do so, and, to achieve full equality, that straight people are able to get a civil partnership if they don’t want to get married.
But, for a moment, let’s stop, let’s remember those who fought for this day but never lived to see it happen, let’s raise a glass and, yes, shed a few tears too.
Today a massive step in that fight for equality has been taken and we all can be thoroughly proud of that.
So, if you are among the first of the gay folks getting wed, have an awesome time, a great party and, remember, you’re making history.
Mathew Hulbert is a Borough and Parish Councillor in Leicestershire and an LGBT rights campaigner.
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