Last Tuesday’s debate and vote on Equal Marriage in the House of Commons was historic and for me it felt like an important moment for equality in this country. The Marriage (Same Sex) Bill has stirred emotions on both sides of the debate and the vote in parliament was always going to be both difficult and inspiring. I grew up in Bristol and was at school whilst Section 28 was in force. I came out when I was 15 and although the majority of the response I received was positive I vividly remember my class tutor saying that she had to be careful what she said because of Section 28. It was clear that the wording of this act had caused confusion and fear among many professionals over what they could and couldn’t say, That’s one of the reasons I found it so moving to hear members of parliament and in particular Conservative MPs speak up for equality. This would have been unimaginable 20, 15 even 10 years ago.
I however wasn’t surprised to hear some of the opposition and undoubted prejudice that we have heard so much since the government mentioned the words “gay marriage”. “In the bible it was Adam & Eve not Adam & Steve”, numerous claims that marriage was primarily for procreation, and statements that Equal Marriage will lead to polygamous and incest marriages were among the most outrageous. I am in my thirties and have heard it all before but my heart went out to all the young LGBT people who may have been watching with interest. Young people who are trying to find themselves and are looking for someone to tell them that they are “normal”.
The argument that the primary function of marriage is to reproduce is like something from the dark ages. How many couples over the age of 50 are getting married in this country every year? Are these marriages any less valid than those of a married couple in their twenties? The next King of our country is in a marriage that is not going to produce any children. This is what’s called progress.
What I have come to realise over the years is that we are never going to 100% wipe out homophobia. There are some religious groups and staunched conservative minds who will never change their stance unless Jesus Christ himself descended and proclaimed “I love gays!” There are so many people that rely on the bible and often use it as an excuse for their prejudices. I am not religious but I know people who are and I am reminded by MP David Lammy’s passionate speech on Tuesday where he stated that “The Jesus I know would stand up for minorities”.
David Lammy MP made an impressive speech during the debate
Whilst we fight for this equality in our own country we must of course not lose sight of the plight faced by LGBT people in countries not as liberal as ours. Prison, beatings and even the death penalty is still the punishment of choice for homosexuality in some countries and we must continue to fight for justice whilst being thankful at how far equality in this county has come.
The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law. This week’s vote in the House of Commons is just the beginning. We can however be optimistic about the speed in which it is progressing. The bill goes to committee this coming Tuesday 12th February and will then face a third reading in the Commons in the coming weeks. If that vote passes the bill will then be sent to the House of Lords for consideration. This could be our biggest stumbling block. It is therefore important that we continue to lobby our MPs and members of the House of Lords.
For me this issue is not about religion or even the institution of marriage, it is simply an issue of equality. We do not want to afforded special treatment all we want is to have the same choices and rights as the rest of the population. It would be unthinkable to discriminate against any other members of society in this way. All we want is the option to marry the person we love. I struggle to comprehend why anyone would have a problem with any couple wanting to proclaim their love.