It’s been a long time coming, but on Tuesday, at long last, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising equal marriage. It’s still a long way off – the legislation will need drafting and redrafting, and then it’ll need to pass in the Lords as well before being signed into Law.
But what it means, finally, is that same sex couples are no longer ‘the same but different’, a pernicious lie we’ve been fed for years. What it means is that when two men or two women want to express and celebrate their lifelong commitment to each other they can talk of their marriage, their wives or husbands, not their civil partners and civil partnerships. (Someone made the point that a civil partnership sounds like something polite you do with a stranger, not an expression of undying love.)
There are flaws in the system; personally, I’m deeply in favour of redefining marriage altogether, creating something new, something that gives the same protections and has the same emotional weight but is an explicit step away from marriage, over whose several thousand years of history women have traditionally been the losers. Inequality is enmeshed with marriage as an Institution, which is why I have massive doubts about it.
At the same time, I know that eventually – in the fullness of time – I do want to have a marriage, a wedding, celebrate that love with someone. I like the idea of having a husband or wife, and now I can have both! (Well, obviously, not at the same time. And hopefully I won’t have both, because I like to think that the person I marry will be the person I stay married to for the rest of my life.)
For a long time, I treasured the idea that instead of having a traditional wedding ceremony, I’d instead just organise a massive party. In the middle of it, my partner and I would stand up and tell our friends and family about our love; make our own vows; create our own space. Sometimes I still want that. I always assumed that if I were to want to marry a woman (not really dreaming that equal marriage would eventually get there) then we’d have a civil partnership, and if I were to want to marry a man, we’d do the party thing. Somehow I preferred the idea of a ‘partnership’ than a marriage.
Now, I have no idea! I like the idea of creating a new kind of relationship, walking away from the old and building the new foundations of something that explicitly enshrines equality in its rhetoric. Sometimes, however, I think I might be overthinking this. At other times, I think that being able to marry someone is a huge thing, that there is a certain majesty of the ceremony (I would never have a church ceremony) even a secular one has a kind of weight and power that makes it a far more solemn and beautiful thing than merely saying to friends and family “you know, guys, I love this one”…
As for all the arguments about equal marriage undermining traditional marriage – I have never understood the logic of this point. Particularly when it comes from Anglicans, whose church, let’s face it, was founded on the back of one man wanting to fundamentally redefine marriage altogether. Henry VIII created divorce, or at least made it a hell of a lot easier. Gay people want to get married, not split up. So who’s more guilty of damaging the institution of marriage, here?!
Also, Nadine Dorries (who is claiming that there’s no point having equal marriage because there’s no requirement for same sex couples to be faithful, apparently) just makes me laugh. Some arguments are hardly worth paying attention to.
So the upshot of this rambling and bewildered and excited post is this: hurrah for equal marriage. Hurrah for the fact that segregation will no longer exist, at least as far as marriage is concerned. Hurrah for the progression of equality, for the approaching end of prejudice, for progress to a world that sees us all as human, rather than ‘the same, but different’.