Writing for PinkNews, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pays tribute to the overwhelming support for same-sex marriage as it is set to take effect in England and Wales, and emphasises that there is more to be done before equality is reached, both in the UK and abroad.
Whether you’re taking the plunge on Saturday or not, this weekend is something for us all to celebrate, as the first same sex couples tie the knot in England and Wales.
It’s been a long, often difficult road down the aisle for equal marriage. But finally, after years of committed campaigning, any couple – gay or straight – who wants to get married can now do so in our country.
That hard-won right sends a powerful message, to those who need it, that we are all equal members of our society, with the equal right to commit to those we love. In modern Britain, it’s this openness, diversity and, above all, respect that we show to each other, which makes us stronger.
That’s why today, I’m incredibly proud to have been the first party leader to have supported equal marriage, and to have carried this support into Government. Most importantly, I’m proud to have campaigned alongside those – including Pink News and its readers – who fought for so long, and so hard, to make this happen.
No matter what the setbacks, you never gave up. And I want pay special tribute to all those who played their part. This includes the British public, who made their overwhelming support clear as this Bill passed through Parliament.
In particular, I also want to mention my fellow Liberal Democrat Minister, Lynne Featherstone. Tackling this issue was at the top of her agenda, when she first came to office. It was one of the most important laws she was determined to pass during her time in Government. And, I know for a fact, that there’s nothing she’s more looking forward to than taking her seat at one of those first ceremonies this weekend.
Yet, our work to promote equality for all is far from done. And it’s vital that we continue to speak up for those people, around the world, for whom this struggle goes on. Every day, millions of men and women are threatened because of their sexuality, and see their rights being stripped slowly away from them.
Our Coalition Government is committed to promote universal human rights, including LGBT freedoms, globally and will continue to speak out against those authorities such as Uganda and Russia who seek to deny them.
Closer to home, it’s also a reality that too many gay men and women, in this country, still suffer through homophobic bullying, and people living with HIV often have to struggle against stigma and discrimination.
In a modern society like ours, that can’t be right. And, wherever we can, our Government will always strive to combat that fear and ignorance and promote greater tolerance, respect and understanding.
So, this weekend, I’ll be raising a glass to every same sex couple who can now marry. I wish you all the very best for the future.
Together, you’re making history. A day you will always remember, and one our nation will never forget.
Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats.