Gay Marriage Victory in the UK: We Win Yet Another Thing!

While bookies around the world are focused on the Royal Baby Bump, a lot of Brits are already celebrating a windfall. With the Queen’s Royal Assent at 3:06pm today, England and Wales brought something equally (if not more) important into the world: same-sex marriage.

 

Same-sex marriage supporters have been waiting for the UK to join the fair side ever since Culture Minister Maria Miller promised a bill promoting marriage equality in 2012. In the past few months The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has been trudging along, passing its first reading in January, its second in February and its third in May. In the final stretch, it cleared the House of Lords on Monday, the House of Commons yesterday and the Queen’s desk today, finally making same-sex marriage official in England and Wales!

Even though there’s always reason to worry, Tuesday’s House of Commons awash with pink carnations showed supporters they had nothing to fear. After the amendments passed with little protest, Culture Minister Maria Miller, the bill’s sponsor, applauded Parliament for doing what’s right.

The completion of the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through parliament, undefeated in all aspects, is a tremendous achievement. Whilst this legislation may be about marriage, its impact is so much wider. Making marriage available to all couples demonstrates our society’s respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality. It demonstrates the importance we attach to being able to live freely. It says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in.

Ultimately if two people love each other then they should be able to demonstrate their commitment to each other through marriage. This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives – and I am proud that we have made it happen.

Culture Minister Maria Miller via Peter McDirmiad

Miller isn’t the only one celebrating Britain’s steps towards a brighter, fairer future. Earlier this week as the bill passed through the House of Lords, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke at a same-sex marriage vigil wearing a pink carnation in solidarity.

Yes, this bill has been surrounded by controversy. Yes, it is an extraordinary step. But I hope, in a very short space of time, everyone will look back and think what on earth was the fuss all about. It should be in my view, entirely unremarkable, and not unusual that people who want to express their love to each other and commemorate their love and celebrate their love – regardless of who they are, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of their gender – should be able to do so on an equal footing. Celebrating love in an equal way across society is what this is all about and I want to thank you for bringing this great change about.

 

Even though the MPs are the players that made the bill into law, same-sex marriage supporters all over the UK recognize how far we’re coming. Stonewall’s Chief Executive Ben Summerskill thanked all of their volunteers throughout England and Wales for achieving this win before vowing to help their Scottish neighbours.

It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends. The Bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.

It doesn’t bring out the same emotions as a parliamentary version of the national anthem, but the Gay Men’s Chorus stood outside the House of Lords celebrating the win as best they can.

Even though people are out celebrating now, we’re still a wee bit away from marching hand in hand to city hall. Before people can start calling each other Wifey or Hubs, governmental departments need to get past the red tape by drafting up new forms, training registrars in new procedures and updating the current computer system. A formal timeline of the final steps should be released this fall, so clear your calendar. But soon, possibly as early as summer 2014, the red tape tangles can be traded for wedding bands. And hopefully Scotland will be waiting at the altar too.

Avatar of Kristen

Hailing from Vancouver, Kristen's still trying to figure out how to survive Montreal's Real Legitimate Canadian Winter. So far she's discovered that warm socks, giant toques and Tabby kittens all play a role in her survival. Her ultimate goal is to rank higher than KStew in the "Kristen + Autostraddle" Google Search competition.

Kristen has written 140 articles for us.

29 Comments

  1. Thumb up 4

    Please log in to vote

    This whole fight for marriage has actually put me off the whole idea of the institution. I’ve been through periods before where I’ve loved the idea of marriage, and other periods where I’ve been neutral, but now I feel as though I never want to get married at all. I don’t know whether this is a feeling that will pass or not (maybe those in countries or states where they’ve already witnessed the fight ending up in a change of law have been through something similar?).

    Anyway, I’ve seen so much discussion of the whole thing, and written my own debates about it, and had to witness opposing arguments to it being passed that I just don’t feel that I want to be a part of the institution. You know, if this is what people will think of me getting married I’d rather just have my own commitment ceremony with no basis in either government or organised religion. Maybe I’m confused or overwhelmed, and I’ll come to be ecstatic about it and start planning my wedding, but right now I feel like it’s all a bit of an anti-climax (especially since we have to wait until Spring..I hate waiting).

    The fact that the Church I grew up in (Church of England) is banned from offering the ceremonies makes it even more bitter to me. I can’t help but feel that the Church as much belongs to those who worship there as it does to those in charge, and I feel as though if a gay Christian wants to get married, and they’ve done their own soul searching and okayed it all with their God, then their beliefs should be respected and a vicar (and Church building) should be available to carry out their marriage for them. That way vicars wouldn’t be forced to carry out marriages, but neither would those who want to get married within their own Church be cast out.

    And now I’ve been a complete downer on a piece of good news I’ll bow out for the night.

    • Thumb up 3

      Please log in to vote

      As a member of an Anglican church (the Scottish Episcopal Church, not the C of E) I can say that there is considerable variation of opinion within the church. As an institution it’s a few years behind, but it will catch up. By the middle of the century I predict that everyone will be amazed that this stuff was ever an issue.

      It doesn’t totally solve the problem, but gay couples in the C of E can come to Scotland, where Episcopal churches can bless civil partnerships (and soon same-sex marriages too) in a service which is almost identical to the marriage liturgy. It’ll take some hard Synod-wrangling before we can actually marry same-sex couples, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or something similarly cliché.

      Sorry for the essay.

    • Thumb up 2

      Please log in to vote

      Not to shit all over the people who are excited, but I feel like I’m very much in the same boat as you. I used be excited, but to me it weirdly feels like a sort of control “it’s legal now, so you have to do it!” (Not that it is for me anyway, Australia and all that)If I can’t be reasonably sure that I haven’t been massively influenced into doing something I’d rather not do whatever that is eg have children.

  2. Thumb up 17

    Please log in to vote

    It’s England and Wales, not Britain and Wales. Britain is the whole of the island, which comprises England, Scotland and Wales. The UK is those three plus Northern Ireland.

    I live in Scotland, and can report that the Scottish marriage bill is in Parliament and should pass before long. To be honest I’m surprised that the Southern Kingdom got it before we did.

    (For the first sentence I wanted to write, “It’s England and Wales, not England and Steve.” And now I have. Surrealists of the world unite! You have nothing to harpsichord banana mauve tapdancing salad fork.)

    • Thumb up 1

      Please log in to vote

      Not just the Republic, either. Northern Ireland is not covered by either this Act (it feels so good to write that) nor by the bill which is currently passing through Holyrood. I seem to recall hearing of an attempt by Sinn Féin to do something in the North but I don’t think it came to anything.

      What’s the situation in the Republic?

  3. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    I’m very happy for same sex people in the UK. But, UGH, why are you mentioning Ben Summerskill at all? Up until 2010 he said he and Stonewall had zero opinion on same-sex marriage. Whatever part he played in this he’s a latecomer to the struggle at best and a nasty transphobe to boot.

  4. Thumb up 9

    Please log in to vote

    I am super happy, mostly, for this bill going through. But, to me it’s kind of bittersweet, because it’s not done a very good job of providing for trans* people, and that makes the victory into a very hollow one, at best.

    There’s an article (I’ll link below) that explains it really well, but from what I understand, a cis spouse can block their partner from obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, by dragging a divorce out for ages, and refusing to allow the marriage to go from opposite sex by law to same sex by law, or vice versa. That seems like something they should have fixed. And also, not disclosing your trans* status, if you have a Gender Recognition Certificate, is grounds for annulment. I can’t tell if that latter bit is a new clause or something that was already there, but I still don’t understand why they haven’t fixed it.

    So yeah, it’s great that we’ve taken this step forward, and I am very, very happy for every same sex couple that wants to get married and now can, but I can’t help feel kind of sad, that they’ve screwed over an entire group of people, in an “equality” bill.

    Link, as promised – http://challengingjourneys.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/spousal-veto-and-annulment/

  5. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    This is kind of surreal. On one hand, the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England has seemed inevitable for a while. On the other hand… Section 28 was still a thing when I was at school and teenage me would never have believed that I would have the option of getting married. There’s still a lot of things that the UK can improve on when it comes to LGBTQ issues, but I’m glad to see how far we’ve come in the last few years and happy about today’s news. Yay!

  6. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    Just a couple of points on this whole thing:
    1. Pensions and stuff still aren’t actually sorted out, so that’s still a bit behind
    2. Married trans people still have a ‘spousal veto’ over whether they can get a GRC, because the trans protections (inc. i believe the one which allowed you to stay married while getting a GRC) were removed from the bill, by the ‘equality minister’. So basically, not only do people who want to stay married have to go through the stress of divorcing only to re-marry the same person, but spouses can choose not to divorce and as such keep trans people from getting a GRC if they don’t want to.

    Just little niggles about the bill and the tories in general actually…

  7. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    SO SO annoyed about Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist Party made some pretty crazy arguments against the Act. One of which being that since Spain and Portugal legalized gay marriage, the number of heterosexual marriages declined. Not exactly sure what the relevance of that would be. Another DUP MP Jim Shannon claimed that ALL his constituents oppose gay marriage.

    Realistically this is nothing new from the DUP though, considering this is the Party that brought us Mayor Maurice Mills, who stated that he felt Hurricane Katrina was a punishment from God for the gay people of New Orleans. No offensive intended towards any DUP supporters here, but I really don’t think we’ll be moving forward on the issue until they are no longer in power. Considering the overwhelming support from the other political parties, I think it’s horrible that the DUP were able to veto progress here.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.