Labour peer Chris Smith argues that there is still a continuing struggle for gay rights.
My partner Dorian and I registered our civil partnership in July, in a very quiet ceremony at Islington Town Hall.
There were just the two of us, and our two friends who were witnesses; we’d deliberately decided that we wanted the ceremony itself to be private.
We then told a rather large number of friends the following evening, at a party organised originally for my birthday. So in a way, I suppose we got the best of both worlds.
One of the wonderful things about the past 10 months has been the way civil partnerships have become part of the normal fabric of our lives. After all the careful negotiation it took to get the law on the statute book, after all the flak we’ve had to endure for years from the bigoted and the prejudiced – in Parliament, press and elsewhere – the first civil partnerships have been marked almost by a mood of national celebration.
I’m really proud of having helped, as a legislator, to bring this about, and I’m even more proud of the way it’s actually happened, in ceremony after ceremony around the country.
It’s rather rare that a piece of legislation helps to make people happier, but I think this has done precisely that.
Looking back 22 years, to the time when I first came out publicly, it’s a totally different world. The age of consent, Section 28, immigration and armed services rules, civil partnerships, the new Equality Commission: so much has changed for the better. But let’s not forget that there is still so much to do.
Prejudice is still there, sometimes overtly. Violent attacks happen. Some religious leaders seem obsessed by homosexuality. We need to carry on working, lobbying, and campaigning; our work won’t be over, for a long time to come.
Lord Smith is a Labour Peer and was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between 1997 and 2001.
This article first appeared in the November issue of The Pink News which is out now.