Today is the day that the UK’s MP’s in Westminster are debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill; and at around 7pm tonight, they will take a vote on whether to pass the bill. The general consensus is that the bill is expected to pass; but that hasn’t stopped some MP’s, religious officials and the (abominable) group ‘Coalition for Marriage’ from screeching about how allowing equal marriage (yes, equal, not ‘gay’ marriage) will lead to the end of the world as we know it.
I’ve written before about how ‘separate but equal’ is a load of rubbish; if you have to keep things separate then it’s not equality at all – but that’s not what I want to talk about today. By now, huge numbers of people have written to their MP’s – some supporting the bill, others opposed to it. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of people have read opinion pieces in The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC News website – arguments have been outlined, comment battles have been fought – and now, in the most part, there is nothing more any of us can do. MP’s may not be voting until this evening, but in the most part, it can be assumed that their minds have already been made up.
So, we are in limbo, in the in-between time. There’s nothing more we can do to sway the minds of those MP’s, sat in a chamber in the middle of London, men and women who have the ability to give me the chance to marry my girlfriend, or to not. It really is that simple. Stacey and I are lucky – our MP (Labour’s Mark Lazarowicz) has already written to us, outlining his support for marriage equality. On top of that, the Scottish Government has already published legislation to allow same sex marriage – meaning that we could (hypothetically) marry as early as 2014.
So in these last few hours, when there is no more campaigning to be done, no more opportunities to persuade our elected officials to do what is right – what do we do? We look forwards. In five years time, how will we look back on this day? Will we remember the names of the MP’s who said that the government have no mandate to legislate on marriage equality? Will we still be hurt by those parliamentary officials who say that families with two parents of the same sex are somehow intrinsically worse than families with different sex parents? Will we remember this day as a turning point for society, or just for the law?
In The Times a few days ago, columnist Matthew Parris wrote an article entitled ‘Vote ‘no’ and you will blush to remember it‘; (behind a paywall, apologies) outlining how embarrassing it will be for MP’s (and specifically Tory MP’s) to look back to see themselves on the wrong side of history in five years time. This exert really spoke to me, because no matter who you are – Member of Parliament or constituent, parent or grandparent, teacher, student or just a regular man on the street – you know someone who this bill affects. The gay couple who want to get married but can’t; the father of a lesbian who wants to walk his daughter down the aisle, the mother of a child who doesn’t know how to tell them that the law says they can’t marry the person who might be their soulmate – if they’re the same sex. This bill is not something which just affects the gay community – it affects all of us, and those people who do vote no will one day look back at their decision and (I hope) be ashamed.
“And so it will prove, my former Tory colleagues, after next week. This is a modest issue, but potent for all that. You will find the Act beds down fast in popular culture. You are moving into a world where all around us will be married couples of the same sex, and some will be constituents, activists, friends, children and grandchildren. You will dine with them, and canvass with them, and they will be among your audience wherever you speak. And a few will remember.
Most won’t remember, or care much, how you voted. But you will. Vote, Mr, Mrs or Ms Conservative MP, against a great evil if you’re sure that’s what it is. But think of 1966. Don’t vote against the person and the politician you may wish to be tomorrow.“
(Reading that last paragraph gives me goosebumps.)
Maybe we won’t all remember the names of the politicians who vote against marriage equality today; but there is one thing I will definitely remember – and that’s what it feels like, looking forwards, knowing that from here on in, it can only get better.Carley