As of midnight last night, gay couples are free to marry in England and Wales. This is a victory. And I feel so happy for all of the gay couples out there who can finally have their loving relationships recognised in the eyes of the law.
Having said this, I can’t help but feel it’s only a half victory, and even that half feels bittersweet. I don’t believe it’s the Government’s place to decide on private matters like marriage. It’s primarily for this reason that my partner and I decided to marry on our own terms last August, and not invite the Government to be party to it. Why is it up to the Government to vote about decisions taken by people in their personal lives and relationships when they are not actions that affect the personal freedoms of anyone else? I don’t know why, but unfortunately it is this way. And given this, I do feel happy that they have decided to grant gay couples with the same respect and right to marriage as heterosexual couples.
However, today, Prime Minister David Cameron said that marriage is not something that should be denied to anyone because of their sexuality.
‘When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change,’ he said.
This is true, and I am pleased the law has changed. But although marriage is no longer being denied to same-sex couples, equal rights still are.
It turns out that it is completely legal to pay out much less pension to a partner belonging to a same-sex marriage when their partner dies than they would to a widow or widower of a heterosexual marriage. The case of Peter Walker earlier this year showed that his civil partner is due only £500 a year in the event of his death. Had he married a woman, she would have been paid £41000 a year instead. This was concluded by a tribunal not to be a breach of EU equality laws and the same rules will carry over from civil partnerships to same-sex marriage.
Every time we meet a victory whether in relation to race, religion, sex or sexuality, it always feels like we still have such a long way to go. Why should we have to fight separately for every single group who is discriminated against in every different way? What is so difficult about just treating every fellow human being as equal? I am saddened that for such a brilliant species, we are still so very primitive. These are not things we should even need to fight for.
I don’t want to rain too much further on the wonderful parade in which we should be celebrating on behalf of all the gay couples in England and Wales, so I won’t delve today into the other inequalities that are still embedded in the new same-sex marriage law and of course, in our society.
I will only say, let’s celebrate today - because tomorrow, there is plenty of work still to be done.