“Show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behavior now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done” (Lord Arran)
Although the bill was greatly received by gay men in the UK, the fact that the age of consent was unequal to their heterosexual counterparts, gay men still encountered discrimination from their family, in the work place and on the streets if they were identified as being gay.
Since then, the road to equality has been long and slow but over the last few decades positive changes in the law have been made: from homosexuality no longer being classed as a mental illness, (May 1990), civil partnerships rights for gay men and lesbians (December 2005), same-sex couples given same adoption rights as heterosexuals, (June 2005), and most recently the passing of the equal age of consent, act to 16 for homosexual and heterosexuals (June 2008).
Each time these laws have had to been fought for; with those sitting in government along with powerful religious authority leaders and their followers, up in arms at the very idea that all those under the umbrella term homosexual, should be kept in their place, while elevating themselves up to some imagined place of superiority.
The latest equality law, Equal Marriage Bill has once again got many a politician all hot and bothered, including Lord Dear and Lord Hylton (who incidentally is still bemoaning the fact that he can no longer use the word ‘gay’ to mean happy… on that note I’d say get yourself a thesaurus.)
One of the main arguments that is coming from the anti- Equal Marriage Bill is that the bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. The bible also says that once a woman marries, she should be subservient to all her husband’s needs
(Genesis: 4:16 Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.)
The thing with the bible text is that you can pick and choose any part of it to suit your argument: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” ~, Genesis 2:18. If you believe in God, this quote could be interpreted that God has given us a choice by the different sexualities he has made for us all.
The real problem in this debate is that we are looking backwards at an institution that is woefully old fashioned and out of date, this is reflected on the number of alternative buildings from a church now licenced to perform a marriage service. Back in the 1950’s and early 60, heterosexuals on the whole were expected to get married. Also many gay men and women ended up in sham relationships which for many led to a life time of misery, as portrayed perfectly in Bethan Roberts’ novel: My Policeman.
These days children are brought up in a wide range of loving and secure relationships that are not named in the bible, so why should there be all this fuss, when essentially there is very little difference between a civil partnership and a marriage? The answer comes down to equality. At present only homosexual couples can enter a civil partnership while marriage is exclusively for Heterosexual couples. Just as the unequal age of consent in the 1960’s helped to harbour this idea that homosexuality was in some way inferior, the same idea is being peddled by some quarters of government and religious leaders as they try and derail the Equal Marriage Bill.
Human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell has called for civil partnerships to be open to both homosexual and heterosexual couples who do not wish to have any religious connotations attached to their relationship. On this, The Brighton Writer agrees, but for this whole matter to move forward; there has to be an equal playing field for all. If a gay or lesbian couple has a faith and wishes to have their matrimony blessed in the eyes of God, then that should be their right. Likewise if a gay, lesbian or straight couple wishes to enter into a civil partnership then that would be a progress for all.
In the meantime we will have to continue to fight for equality which will help towards ending the idea that one sexuality is superior over any other, which in turn will go in some way of helping to bring an end to homophobia, bigotry and hatred.