Ruth Hunt, acting Chief Executive of Stonewall writes for PinkNews on the importance of celebrating same-sex marriage in England and Wales, but says we must stay mindful of the journey ahead.
This weekend marks a historic moment in our movement. As lesbian, gay and bisexual people across England and Wales exchange those solemn vows it is more than a reflection of our commitment to each other, it is also an indication of how far we’ve come in the last fifty years.
Marriage puts us on an equal footing with our heterosexual friends and, as we are inundated with stock images of two men on top of wedding cakes, allows us a chance to reflect that this moment is the culmination of five decades of determined campaigning for our rights. We can all be proud of what has been achieved. From those initial steps calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the protests outside parliament calling for the equalisation of the age of consent, securing our right to serve in the armed forces, our right to adopt, our right to access services, our right to be parents of our children, our right to have our relationships recognised and now our right to marry – we have become a force to be reckoned with. A movement that not only understands who we need to influence, but one that recognises when and how to do so as well.
The campaign for equal marriage was a perfect manifestation of our collective effectiveness. Individual campaigners came together – Out4Marriage, the Campaign for Equal Marriage and many, many others – and galvanised people. As a community we navigated the differing views amongst ourselves (with varying degrees of courtesy) to reach a level of consensus that made opposition to equality an unenviable task. Large campaigning groups (and even political parties) are astounded by what we have been able to achieve together.
The three main political parties in this country showed a vision and commitment that makes us the envy of the world. Labour, when in government, secured a catalogue of legal changes for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The Liberal Democrats, as a party of power within the coalition, recognised the opportunity that this unique political landscape offers and pushed through equal marriage. And the personal commitment of the Prime Minister, who recognised that marriage is one of the most important institutions to his party, took this up and, even when it was difficult to do so, maintained and expressed his commitment to us. The stories of our lesbian, gay and bisexual parliamentarians serve to remind us how far we’ve come.
This is an important milestone. But we’re not done yet. We must use our skills and energy to make sure homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are eradicated from our schools, our streets, ours sports fields, our workplaces, our churches and our homes. And we must support our friends abroad.
Today, and in the days, months and years ahead, we congratulate each and every couple celebrating their love and commitment. But we always remain mindful that the work continues. Lot’s done but lots to do. At Stonewall we’re ready for the next challenge. I hope you can join us.
Ruth Hunt took over as the acting CEO of Stonewall on 7 February 2014.