Thursday, 11 July 2013

#EqualMarriage: The Endgame (Sort of) Approaches, Thank You!

I've been moaning about marriage equality for just under 10 years. Over that time I've evolved from "grumpy with the halfway house solution of civil partnerships" through "passionate marriage equality evangelist" to "grumpy that Government proposals don't meet my rather extensive requirements".

And the response I've got has moved with that. In the beginning I was mainly blocked on Twitter for calling out prominent people (mainly LGBT Labour members) who refused to even acknowledge the subject or insulted by (soon to be ex) followers who felt I was belittling their civil partnerships by arguing in favour of full equality. Sometimes I'm sure I did come across as overly aggressive and single-minded. Then something, somewhere, changed. Prop 8 brought the issue to the attention of the less politically minded people in the LGBT community and slowly different groups and individuals started demanding change. Peter Tatchell (although he had been arguing for it for far longer than any of us), Tom French, various prominent Lib Dems (who orchestrated both the vote in favour at Conference and the shaming of Ben Summerskill), and Pink News really helped take the issue into the political arena. Without them, and without politicians like Lynne Featherstone, we'd never even have reached this point.

2010 was the big year, the year when I did more than just tweet and really started gunning for victory. And along came awesome organisations like the Coalition for Equal Marriage, Out4Marriage and Freedom to Marry who helped lobby those in power.

Our opponents have been surprisingly weak. The intellectual arguments were notable by their absence. They were still fighting the Section 28 and same-sex parenting battles, battles they'd already lost and they have singularly failed to mount a sensible, compelling defense of their views on marriage. Unlike in the USA (and France) our opponents have relied solely on silly arguments like "It wasn't in a manifesto" (That isn't how British Parliamentary democracy works plus it sort of was), "Gay marriage will lead to more abortions" or "What next, people marrying dogs?" The far more high-minded arguments, as expounded in such works as "What is marriage?", barely made a mark on our own "traditional marriage supporters". This has been a boon for us given the often lukewarm support of prominent pro-equality politicians like Chris Bryant and Ben Bradshaw and the reluctance of Stonewall to help out.

Now it is hard to believe that after all this it might finally be approaching reality. On Monday the Third Reading of the same-sex marriage bill in the House of Lords is due which will be followed by "Parliamentary ping-pong". Whilst it is not absolutely certain to pass, and there are still risks of wrecking amendments, previous events tend to suggest that our own version of marriage equality will become a reality next week.

It isn't really the end though. We have reviews of opposite-sex civil partnerships and humanist weddings ahead. And probably a review of pension equality too (hurrah). And this bill has done much to hurt transgendered people and is expressly written to treat them in an incredibly unfair way. So come Tuesday next week I still expect that those of us I like to call "marriage equality enthusiasts" will still be moaning away, but I do hope we can all take a moment to smile at how far we've come.

In 2010 I wrote a blog post where I declared that marriage equality was so unlikely we might as well not get our hopes up. I never expected the results of the 2010 election, obviously. I am so pleased to declare that I was wrong. Marriage equality is possible. It will happen. Here, in the United Kingdom. First same-sex marriage will come to England and Wales. Soon it will come to Scotland too. And I'm sure we can convince our Northern Irish relatives that they need to join the club. And soon we shall overcome the failures of this current bill in Westminster. It is a matter of time. I'm not saying it is "inevitable" and I'm not saying "we're on the right side of history". But I can say I'm a glass half full kind of guy these days.

For everyone who has done anything, no matter how small, towards gaining marriage equality: thank you. Thank you so much. You may well know how much it means, but I can barely describe how happy it will make me.

Thank you!

1 comment:

Hodge Podge said...