Peter Tatchell: Commons vote a victory for equal marriage but the battle is not yet won
Reflecting on yesterday’s victory for the equal marriage bill in the House of Commons, which passed 400 to 175, Peter Tatchell writes on what is to come next, that the bill may still face strong opposition and that there is still a need to extend civil partnerships to straight couples.
This is a resounding, historic victory for love and equality. It has bought joy and hope to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who love each other and who want to get married.
We are on the cusp of ending the last major legal discrimination against gay people. This vote for equal marriage is the culmination of the struggle for homosexual equality that I and others began in the 1960s. We are nearly there.
The next major battle on the bill will be in the House of Lords, where the outcome is far from certain. The opponents of equal marriage are determined to make a last ditch stand in defence of marriage discrimination. They want to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as second class, unequal citizens.
Our love will triumph over their prejudice.
During the later stages of the Bill there will be amendments tabled to end the legal ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is just as offensive as the prohibition on same-sex marriage. We stand for full equality, not the gay-only equality offered by this Bill.
James Howarth, a campaigner with the Peter Tatchell Foundation, who attended Tuesday night’s vigil outside parliament, said: “The opponents of same-sex marriage are a vociferous homophobic minority, mostly motivated by irrational religious dogma. They want to maintain heterosexual privilege in law; putting tradition before dignity, fairness, equality and compassion”
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“They are resorting to smears and scare tactics, including the unfounded claims that same-sex marriage will be forced on religious institutions and that it is the slippery slope to legalising polygamy and incest. These are revolting slurs, unworthy of any genuine person of faith.
“Whatever our personal views about marriage and gay rights, in a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law. The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should be repealed.
“This legislation is about ensuring equal marriage rights for all. Denying lesbian and gay couples the right to marry disparages and insults their love.
“The fact that some senior politicians and churchmen believe same-sex couples are unworthy of marriage is proof that homophobia is still an acceptable prejudice at the highest levels of society. Their support for discrimination in marriage law gives comfort to bigots everywhere,” said Mr Howarth.
Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign.
The views in this article are his own and not those of PinkNews.co.uk