It’s here at last. After years of hoping campaigning and struggling, marriage equality is upon us. Just after midnight tonight on Saturday 29th March 2014 the first same-sex couples will tie the knot and across the England and Wales we will celebrate. I use the phrase ‘marriage equality’ because that’s what it is. It’s not ‘gay marriage’ whatever that might look like.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was passed by the UK government in July 2013 and came into force in England and Wales on the 13th March 2014 and at that point same sex marriages outside of UK jurisdiction became recognised for those couples residing here.
Scottish legislation was passed in February 2014 with the first ceremonies expected in the Autumn 2014.
The Northern Ireland Executive has not bought any such legislation and same-sex marriages from beyond its borders will be treated as Civil Partnerships
Today I am proud to have been born in a country that now sees these rights as equal for all people. Yes it’s true that for nine years now we have had the option of Civil Partnerships. I am convinced that without the history of Civil Partnerships we would not have achieved marriage equality so easily. Like so many other cultural shifts there was great resistance to this non-religious version of marriage but now, Civil Partnerships take place at the rate of 6-7000 every year and are pretty equally divided between men and women.
The civil partnership laws were a huge step change in December 2005. My partner and I had already been together for over twenty five years when we had our Civil Partnership ceremony. That day is forever etched in our memories as one of the best of our lives together. We were supported by family, friends, work colleagues and their children who all saw it as a completely natural thing for us to be doing
The world didn’t come to an end. We were not struck down by lightning. But of course marriage was still closed to us and in that respect civil partnership remained as something of a consolation prize for those of us who didn’t quiet qualify for the real thing.
Let’s be clear. Marriage in this country has always been a legal construct. Some groups still argue that it is a religious one but it is not. Currently some 39% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce. Will the gays be any better at it? Probably not, but who is qualified to say that we should not have the same opportunity to succeed or fail.
Some have argued that marriage is a child-centric state. That argument does not hold water either. During my thirty four years as a school teacher I was only to aware of the vast numbers of our young people who did not live in a two parent home
Nor does the biological argument about procreation stand up. Marriage has never been necessary for breeding.
Changing any law in the UK is a complex process, not taken lightly, nor should it be. This new Act corrects many inequalities, but in order to work effectively it had to include a whole raft of minor corrections to existing marriage law. These include allowing night time marriages for the first time. It also repeals the existing sodomy laws and now ensures that if a member of the royal family were to wed his same sex partner, that person would never be forced to take the title of Queen. I’m sure that one caused a few laughs among the legal draughtsmen.
I will not deal here with religious opposition but the law allows church groups to abstain from recognising same sex marriage without fear of any legal backlash.
Now it just remains for the first vows to be exchanged and the cakes to be cut. My congratulations to all those couples who will take the plunge this weekend.
My final wistful thought is a wish for a future time when so called gay marriages are no longer news-worthy. We are a nation which has embraced so many cultural changes and we are no strangers to creating new traditions. Let’s waive our flags and sing our anthems today. When the fuss has died down let us look to the future when attitudes are truly changed and we accept that we never really did alter the institution of marriage we just extended the joy to everyone.
T.J. Masters is a fifty-six-year-old author and life coach living in Hertfordshire just to the north of London, England. T.J. has shared thirty years of suburban life with his civil partner Ian, and they enjoy the love and support of T.J’s large Irish family who all live nearby. In 2009 T.J. took early retirement from a thirty-three-year school teaching career and decided to follow a new path. After qualifying as a life coach, T.J. found that he was coaching a couple of authors who were going through the process of giving birth to the book which “had always been inside them.” This rekindled T.J’s long-held desire to write and get published.
With a lifelong passion for books, learning, and the sharing of knowledge, T.J. woke up to the realization that he had stories to tell, books to write, and less than half a lifetime left to do it in. As for the kind of books he is writing… well, let’s just say that he decided to channel over thirty years of experience in the gay BDSM lifestyle into a genre where it would be most appreciated!
Alongside this passion for books and writing, T.J. also found an outlet for his inner geek and has become a great advocate for social media in various forms. Blogging has become a great outlet for T.J’s many interests including the writerly ones. The author has a website where he blogs regularly and he loves to interact with his readers and followers at http://www.tjmasters.com.