Comment: Why we’re building a coalition for equal marriage
In just a few weeks, an incredible 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for same sex marriage to become legal in the UK. The petition was organised by a gay couple incensed at the formation of the anti-gay Coalition for Marriage, here they explain why they are fighting to open up civil marriage for everyone in Britain regardless of their sexuality.
In recent weeks we have heard and read terrible things said by religious organisations and their supporters about the “threat” that the LGBT community pose. Terrible things said about you, a friend or relative, or a fellow citizen of this great country. Are we going to just roll our eyes? Again?
The United Kingdom is an amazing country. People in countries all around the world look up to us for one thing or another. Our legal system, our democracy, our sense of humour, our fashion, our tolerance, our freedom, and the list goes on and on. Thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of civil rights and equality campaigners that have come before us, we largely enjoy the peace and freedoms of a tolerant society. We also have the protection of the state through legislation preventing discrimination in employment and the provision of goods and services.
Unfortunately we are still not equal. Unsurprisingly, the areas where we do have equality, such as employment and provision of goods and services, are exactly those areas where we fill the government coffers through PAYE, VAT etc. When it comes to what actually makes us different, our relationships, we are still separated and subdued.
Yes, gay couples are signing up for civil partnerships all the time, and we afforded the same rights under these partnerships as married couples. However, in civil weddings up and down the country, all those gathered are told, “Marriage according to the law of this country is the union of one man with one woman”. We have our noses rubbed it in every time we attend a civil wedding of a straight couple (which, we hasten to add, doesn’t reflect on the couple themselves. Paul and Lisa, your wedding was lovely, and you guys are ace).
We have a two-tier system, where citizens who wish to commit to a partner of the same sex must be dealt with separately, for fear we may taint a heteronormative ideal.
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We are a different box to tick on a form, in the section ironically titled “Marital status”. We have no marital status. We are not allowed to be marital.
The Coalition for Marriage has impressive resources and launched to a big fanfare, with church leaders, MPs and lawyers on board, and an email out to their database of 175,000 supporters of various organisations. Their petition, at www.c4m.org.uk is currently at 136,000 signatures and is trying to bully the government into backing down over the implementation of same-sex civil marriage by 2015.
We set up the Coalition for Equal Marriage at www.c4em.org.uk days later, and the resources at our disposal were Facebook and Twitter. Two and a half weeks, threatening phone calls and attempts to uncover our home address later, we are at 25,000 signatures. We have support from a wide spectrum of religious organisations, support groups, political groups, professional groups and publications. We have a long way to go.
This is not just about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people standing up for themselves, alone. This is about all of the above, their straight friends and their families all standing together to say that it is not OK to talk about us this way. This is about fellow citizens standing up and saying that it is not OK for these bigots to claim they speak for them. Also, let us be realistic, it’s about people who don’t really care to stand up too and say that they’re done hearing about this – can we just legalise it and move on?
Most importantly it’s about all of us sending a message that progress is good, marriage is secular, the government works for the people, and we will not allow them to be bullied into walking away from doing what’s right, just to appease the apoplectic religious lobbyists and pontificators.
If they win, they will only be emboldened, and who knows what’s next?
The eyes of the world are on Great Britain in 2012. 10 countries around the world have already legalised same-sex marriage as far back as 10 years ago, and the world has not ended.