At one minute past minute, several couples were married. Yet these weddings were remarkable not just for the obscure time of night at which they took place, nor for the crowds that waited outside. The people getting married weren’t particularly famous, nor were they royalty or major international figures. They were people in love, affirming their love in front of their loved ones.
What made it historic is that the two people getting married were of the same gender.
It is to be hoped that despite the history being made this weekend, in future we will see married couples of the same gender as no more remarkable or special than the undoubtedly remarkable and special opposite-sex couples we all see each day. Already 4/5ths of Brits would attend a same-sex wedding (a percentage that might have been unthinkable a decade or two ago), and support for same-sex marriage is higher amongst younger generations who on on the whole do not carry the prejudice of their forebears. It is possible now to imagine a Britain where LGBT equality extends beyond legal equality to social and cultural equality. As a society we’re still not there yet, but the legal equality that is enshrined in law means we can now strive for such a future.
Of course it’s important not to be complacent. Chris Bryant rightly noted yesterday that twenty years ago “people were still arrested for importuning (meeting a stranger in a bar and taking him home)”. The battle to ensure legal equality isn’t eroded and that social equality becomes a reality must continue apace.
But lets look at how far Britain has come.
I’m not married, but in the future I could be. As a white, heterosexual man, that’s a choice that has always been open to me. I’m lucky in that regard. It’s a choice that has been open to people like me for hundreds of years. But this morning, for so many people, a new possibility opens up. “If I wanted to. If I am with the right person and it’s what we want, we could get married”. For same-sex couples up and down the country that’s now an active choice that they can take. And all of those additional marriages, those celebrations of love, can only be better for our country.
So congratulations to the happy couples, and to the happy couples to come. To those who have campaigned long and hard for marriage equality and sexual equalities of all kinds. And although this should not be a party political matter, thanks to the Labour MPs who voted for this, and LGBT Labour who campaigned hard for it. And because it isn’t a party political matter, lets thank MPs from the Tories, Lib Dems and other parties who backed marriage equality too. And thank David Cameron for his leadership on this, despite the rancour it engendered in his party.
We woke up in a better Britain today. There’s still far to go. But as this historic weekend comes to pass, lets not let it drift by without acknowledging how far we’ve come.