Equal Marriage Vote: A Victory for Love and Equality
Tuesday 5 February was a truly historic day in Parliament as the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of Equal Marriage. After a full day’s debate, MPs voted by 400 to 175, a majority of 225 for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
I am writing this piece because I know that Equal Marriage (same sex marriage) is a contentious issue in BME communities, especially amongst people of faith.
I am heterosexual (straight) and Christian (Church of England). I have been a long time supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights and I am a passionate advocate of Equal Marriage. For me, Equal Marriage is about the principle of equality and having equal rights under the law.
Most BME people have an understanding of prejudice because they usually have direct personal experience of being discriminated against because of their ethnicity. Another group of people who understand prejudice and discrimination is the LGBT community. Until recently, many inequalities remained enshrined in law and it is only in the last 13 years that most homophobic laws have been repealed, including an end to the criminalisation of homosexuality.
I am passionate about Equal Marriage because I believe that everyone, gay and straight, should have the right to marry the person whom they love in a civil and/or a religious ceremony. No religious organisation should be forced to do so, but if the religious organisation is willing to conduct the ceremony, where is the problem?
At present, LGBT people cannot get married, they can only have a Civil Partnership. A Civil Partnership is not the same. Aside of some key differences (eg. pension rights), it is an entirely separate system – and separate is not equal. Surely, in a democratic society, everyone should be equal under the law?
Banning LGBT people from marriage makes them second class citizens and devalues their love. Many LGBT people are in loving lasting long-term relationships and want to get married. For them, a Civil Partnership is second-best and not good enough.
Whilst the debate took place inside the Commons, supporters of Equal Marriage held a rally outside Parliament for love and equality, and to make a visible presence for equal rights against the vociferous homophobic minority.
The Commons vote in support of Equal Marriage was a historic victory for equality, bringing joy and hope to tens of thousands of LGBT couples, because when the Bill becomes law, it will give them the opportunity to get married just like everyone else.
Although the vote has been won in the Commons, the fight for Equal Marriage goes on. The Bill will now go to the House of Lords where it will face stiff opposition.
I would ask everyone who genuinely cares about equal rights and equality to lobby a member(s) of the House of Lords (by writing or emailing) to encourage them to stand up for the principle of equality and to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
This is an issue of equality first and foremost. And if we are passionate about race equality then I believe we should be equally passionate about ensuring equal rights for everyone.
Picture Caption - From right to left: Rakshita Patel pictured outside Parliament with other Equal Marriage supporters including Peter Tatchell, Co-ordinator of the Equal Love campaign.