“I don’t know what the big deal is. If gay people want to fight for the right to get married, it’s up to them. If I ever meet a guy I want to stay with for the rest of my life, I don’t need a piece of paper to make our relationship official. I’m never having kids, so what does it matter?” — Greg, Age 18
I always knew I was gay. There wasn’t really any question about it. But I grew up in England under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and its implementation of Section 28, a law that forbade addressing or even mentioning homosexuality in schools. Being gay wasn’t to be discussed, much less contemplated as a social structure with inherent value. It simply never occurred to me that the idea of a “happily ever after” might actually apply to gay couples.
When I hit voting age, I lived in that bubble of youth in which the ramifications of social policies and laws meant far less than reveling in my new-found freedom. Like many 18-year-olds, I felt a detachment from politics and social change. I was out to my friends and family, but didn’t feel compelled to get involved in political discussions or debates to win the hearts and minds of people who didn’t agree with my “lifestyle.” In my youthful defiance, their opinions made no difference to how I lived my life. And like most young people, I had no reason to think about the legal rights and responsibilities attendant to most relationships, like tax benefits, adoption requirements, hospital visitation rights, or full equality under the law.
And whether it was through social conditioning, self-protection, or just resignation, I had already come to terms with the idea that life wasn’t going to work out the same for me as it did for my straight friends. Even if I was in a loving, committed relationship, it would never be given the same acceptance as theirs. Things weren’t equal and things were never going to change.
“I think it’s great that the Labour government pushed through civil partnerships. It’s as good as marriage and gives pretty much all the same benefits. We got what we wanted. We are protected under the law. Do we really need the ‘married’ title?” – Greg, Age 29
When Tony Blair’s Labour government passed civil partnerships in 2004, it was more than I ever dared dream would happen. Gay relationships were given proper legal status under the law, and I knew that the government and church would never agree on ‘marriage,’ so this was the next best thing.
Though there were still some differences between the rights afforded to civil partnerships and married couples, I didn’t see the point in raising a fuss. I’m not religious, so recognition of my relationship in a church wasn’t an issue for me. All I wanted was protection under the law. My American partner lived in a country whose federal government gave our relationship no recognition at all, so I was proud of the advances England had made.
“The notion of ‘separate but equal’ just doesn’t cut it.” – Greg, Age 37
Then a funny thing happened. Marriage equality came to parts of America. My partner became my husband in a full-fledged marriage licensed by the District of Columbia. It wasn’t recognized by the federal government at the time, but the title and status were more than we could have obtained in England. Strangely enough, “marriage” didn’t really matter to me until I was married.
Our American marriage would be recognized as a civil partnership in England, but there was no legitimate reason for the distinction. My marriage is every bit as valid, enduring, and valuable as any other. And in one of the more ironic twists in the issue, it was a Conservative government that took up the cause. David Cameron’s push for marriage equality turned Section 28’s denial on its head — and in doing so, has made England a more open, affirming country.
The reputation of my motherland being a stuffy, overly traditional power was signed away by an 87-year-old monarch who has reigned for sixty years. And the implications aren’t limited to England. As head of the Commonwealth, the Queen’s endorsement of marriage equality will influence this debate in countless countries around the world. Her royal assent sends a powerful message in support of the principles of fairness and equality. As time passes and more and more people see that the sky hasn’t fallen and straight marriage has not collapsed because my husband and I got married, other countries will follow suit.
With the enactment of marriage equality in England, and with the recent Supreme Court decisions overturning Section 3 of DOMA and Proposition 8 in America, the arc of history is gainfully in our favor. Though the pace of change has been astonishing, our evolution isn’t complete, and won’t be until all couples have the same rights around the world. But I take great pride in the progress we’ve made.
What brings me the most happiness is there will never be another generation of British kids that will be battered into a state of mind that their happily-ever-after is unattainable. They won’t have to convince themselves, like I did, that it will never happen. They will never have to settle for compromise. And they will never have to fight a government who refuses to grant them the equality they deserve.
Same sex marriage is only applicable in England and Wales. Scotland is currently conducting its own campaign for equal marriage. Please take time to watch this video from The Equality Network.
Greg Hogben was born and raised on the south coast of England where he spent his school days learning how to get into trouble. But more importantly, he learned how to tell stories to get out of it. Greg is a huge fan of British humor and counts Stephen Fry and Jennifer Saunders among his comedy gods. You can contact Greg at email@example.com.
Greg’s Huffington Post blogs can be found here.
The British Devil.
British national Greg Stephens knew there would be challenges in his new relationship with handsome American Navy officer Danny Taylor: long distance; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; the Defense of Marriage Act; US immigration….
But he didn’t anticipate his greatest obstacle: Danny’s born-again Christian mother, Vivien. A secretary in a small-town Southern Baptist church in Texas, she bristles at Greg’s secular beliefs. Through passive-aggressive manipulation, subtle deceit, or outright battle, Vivien resolves to banish Greg and return Danny to the fold, come hell or high water. Greg’s hold on Danny’s heart is pitted against Vivien’s crusade for Danny’s soul.
All the while, Greg devotes himself to keeping Danny happy while negotiating the cultural differences of his life in America. Danny’s new career as a lawyer takes them from his native Texas to New York. But with Vivien testing Greg’s stiff upper lip at every turn, something has to give.