Although we are now drawing to a close for the final decision regarding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in England and Wales, UK marriage equality has had a longstanding history.
Stretching as far back to the 1960s, before the Bill could even be thought possible, the lobbying for gay and lesbian equality has been fought both tooth and nail throughout the decades.
The following PinkNews History of England and Wales Marriage equality aims to highlight just a part of the rich and diverse history of this campaign, tracing those individuals both in opposition and in favour of the Bill, as well as the expansive surrounding history of LGBT equality that has since snowballed into the climactic turning point we are today witnessing for civil justice.
To begin, however, a brief history of marriage itself:
Where did it all begin?
1949 was the year the Marriage Act first lawfully defined marriages as the union between a man and a woman.
At this time, it was not even conceivable to think to actively exclude those who would want a same-sex union. In fact, it was not until 1971 that another Bill, the Nullity of Marriage Act, emerged to legally prohibit same-sex couples from marrying altogether.
Earlier back, nevertheless, 1866 was the year that introduced the very idea of the opposite-sex marriage definition in the first place.
In the case of Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee, which was a polygamy trial, the judgment of Lord Penzance ruled: “Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.”
In 1889 The Cleveland Street scandal occurred, which was the case of a police raid on a London gay brothel, where a number of aristocratic clients were arrested including Lord Arthur Somerset. The Prince of Wales’s son Prince Albert Victor and Lord Euston were also part of the scandal.
In 1895 Oscar Wilde was tried for gross indecency for his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, and was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour.
Tracing these artefacts of history, it is easy to think today about how far we might have come, and about how bizarre the world back then would have seemed to those of us privileged to be living now.
But the fight for an equal definition of marriage is a history fraught with obstacles. It was not an easy path to progress. It was an uphill climb with as many losses, tragedies, and heartbreaks as there were triumphs.
The following history starts in 1967, where “Homosexual Acts” were first legally decriminalised in England and Wales. It is from here perhaps, that our path towards real civil equality first laid its slight yet crucial groundwork.