Liberal Democrat peer Lord Brian Paddick writes for PinkNews.co.uk of his delight at the fact that today his marriage to his Norwegian husband, Petter, is finally recognised in England and Wales.
In 1983 I married my wonderful wife Mary, who has supported me to this day. We divorced by mutual consent after five years, soon after I told her I was gay. As far as I was concerned, that was it.
Over seven years ago I met a gorgeous Norwegian man on the steps of the Dalt Vila in Ibiza (as you do) and we fell in love. In January 2009, shortly after Norway made the very sensible decision to replace civil partnerships with equal marriage, we were stood in front of a judge in the courthouse in Oslo in the presence of our closest friends and family. Still not realising the significance of what was about to happen, the judge said, in English (I did say the Norwegians were very sensible) “We are here to witness the marriage of Brian and Petter.” I crumpled. I never believed that I would marry again, let alone to the man I love. This was true equality, same-sex couples being treated exactly the same as other couples.
So began five years of feeling second-best in my own country where our marriage was recognised in the UK only as a gay-specific civil partnership. I told the story of our Norwegian wedding to the Liberal Democrat Conference in 2010. My voice broke as I described what happened, unable to hold back the emotion I felt. We were the first mainstream political party to adopt equal marriage as party policy. Our wonderful MP, then Equalities Minster, Lynn Featherstone, took the issue forward in the coalition government. Stonewall’s initial concerns that opposition in the House of Lords could not be overcome proved unfounded. Outstanding speeches, from Noble Lords, including Baroness Liz Barker who spoke publicly for the first time about her sexuality, led to a historic victory.
Two weeks ago I told the story of our Norwegian wedding in the House of Lords debate on enabling secondary legislation on equal marriage. I crumpled again. I cannot convey in words the significance and importance of equal marriage to me and to people like us.
There is still work to do, sexually active but scrupulously safe gay men cannot donate blood whereas there is no restriction on promiscuous and risk-taking straight men, for example. And as the current excellent Stonewall campaign highlights, there is much to be done in changing attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other sexuality minorities, even if the Stonewall campaign does not cover every minority.
Even though most couples have to give two weeks’ notice of their intention to marry, today equal marriage becomes legal in the UK. Petter and I are now legally married on both sides of the North Sea. My husband and I (husband and husband in case you were wondering) will be celebrating this weekend and we hope many more same sex couples, along with fine friends and families, will be celebrating equal marriage in the weeks, months and years to come.
Lord Paddick is a Liberal Democrat peer and former 2008 and 2012 London mayoral candidate.
He was, until his retirement in May 2007, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service and the UK’s most senior openly gay police officer.