Why You Should Come Out for Equal Marriage
Yesterday I took the time to watch the Channel 4 drama/documentary (or docu-drama as IMDB seems to call it) A Very British Sex Scandal. It told the true of story of the famous Daily Mail reporter Peter Wildeblood, a homosexual man living in an era of great unease towards those who did not seem to conform to the conceived “social norms” in society. His secret relations with a young RAF serviceman led to one of the most high-profile court cases of its kind in 1955 (as homosexuality was still illegal, the charge of “buggery” often led some men to imprisonment for life). Wildeblood, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers were charged with crimes including homosexual acts and buggery. This was all part of the national witch hunt the police were leading to track down gay men and help stop the “spread” of homosexual activity across Britain.
The court case went down in history as a landmark moment for the journey of gay rights as it was Peter Wildeblood’s bravery to admit that he was, indeed, a homosexual that inspired public opinion and views to dramatically shift in favour of easing the laws in regards to homosexual activity. Wildeblood himself, who was convicted to a mere 18 months in prison, went on to write a book on his life up to and including his time in prison entitled Against The Law (1955). The arguments presented in this went on to play a crucial role in influencing the infamous Wolfenden Committee, who had been put together to explore the possibility of changing the laws on homosexual activity and prostitution. The report presented by the committee in 1957 ended up influencing the changes made, a decade later, which led onto the decriminalization of homosexuality. One man, Peter Wildeblood, had single-handedly played a huge role in promoting these changes and did so unashamedly.
Now, in 2012, gay men and more importantly the LGBT community as a whole do not face such discriminatory attitudes from the state as they did in the 50s and 60s, but that does not mean there is not a long way to go. For many there is one huge hurdle left and that is the issue of marriage. At present gay couples can only enter into a Civil Partnership, as introduced by the previous Labour government. The Coalition government however, has now launched a consultation on the possibility of legislating and legalising equal civil marriages. It must be noted however that this would not legalise same-sex religious marriage, but simply extend the right for same-sex couples to register their partnerships as marriages, whether they take place in a register office or they are simply changing to marriage from their previous civil partnership.
Although many believe it would be better for the proposals to be extended to opening up the law for same-sex couples to enter into a religious marriage, it is still a huge step towards greater equality for LGBT defining people in society. These proposals come in light of the Coalition commitment to the issue and David Cameron’s comments at the Conservative party conference last Autumn where he claimed “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.” Whatever you think of these comments and the PM personally it is still a huge shift away from what many remember of the Tories as the party of Section 28.
But where do we all come into this? Well for one it would help if you all took part in the consultation on the issue (linked at the bottom), but there is more you can do. The group heading the campaigning for the legalisation of same-sex marriage are named the Coalition for Equal Marriage and they are looking for as many people as possible to spread the message of the campaign. The term “Equal Marriage” is important and necessary because we believe that the term “same-sex marriage” only enforces the idea of separation from “straight marriages”. We believe that any marriage should be seen as equal to another, regardless of who is entering into it.
Another grouping, Out4Marriage, are running a social media campaign encouraging people to record videos of themselves explaining why they are “Out for Marriage”. Celebrities have already got on board and recorded their own personal messages of support including Virgin group owner Richard Branson. If you would like to know more about this and possibly do the same then watch this video:
Sadly this movement for equality and a fairer society for same-sex couples is not without its opponents. An opposition group called “Coalition For Marriage” (not to be confused with the Coalition For Equal Marriage) are using age-old arguments and scare tactics to try and make people think that two men, or two women, entering into a civil marriage are undermining the values and traditions of marriage. I do not want to dwell on their message of hate, but let me tell you that they used the same arguments in 2005 for Civil Partnerships and we proved them oh so wrong. So what I say is, let’s do it again by coming out for Equal Marriage.
If you would like to take part in the Home Office’s consultation click here.
The consultation closes on June 14th 2012.