Last week, I wrote to my MP asking him to do the right thing and vote for Equal Marriage. He had already suggested that he would not be voting in favour, but I wanted to add my voice to the pile and hope that, maybe, he’ll change his mind. This was before the Government published the draft Bill, and before we found out that we don’t have long to wait – MPs will be debating the legislation on the 5th February. Almost as soon as this was announced, Stonewall and The Campaign for Equal Marriage (C4EM) led calls for people to write to, email, tweet or call their MP asking them to support the Bill in Parliament.
According to polling by Ipsos MORI, 73 per cent of people in Britain support equal marriage. C4EM further announced that a clear majority of MPs will be supporting the measure. However, we must not become complacent. The Coalition for Marriage, defenders of inequality, have taken it upon themselves to produce 3 million leaflets to be handed out on high streets and across constituencies where they believe MPs can be encouraged to vote against the bill. They have been asking their supporters to write to MPs for a good few months – it’s time we caught up. We need to try and get as many MPs on our side as we can because, if there is overwhelming support in the House of Commons, the passage of the law will be easier. If we can demonstrate that a wide range of MPs, from across party lines, support equality, then we can silence the detractors once and for all.
I know many of you will be disappointed by the Bill, with its ‘quadruple lock’ against the Church of England offering equal marriage. It’s not perfect equality, but it’s almost as much as we could have hoped for whilst the Church of England remains the national religion and its leadership are so vocally against the idea. If I had my way, marriage would be an entirely civil affair. Religion would only come into the equation if people desired it. Unfortunately that would be overturning centuries of tradition. Instead of disappointment, we have to look to the incredible step this Government is taking; not only are they completely equalising marriage in a civil sense, but they are allowing religious institutions who want to perform same-sex marriages the opportunity to do so.
Finally, the love that connects individuals of the same sex will have exactly the same standing as the love born between opposite-sex couples. Those thousands of people who have entered into Civil Partnerships will no longer have to feel the awkwardness of a union that is equal, but different. They can finally, as they have always done, justifiably call themselves married. Someone in a loving relationship undergoing gender reassignment will no longer, among all the other emotions they are faced with, have to end their marriage simply because of a word.
Young people struggling with their sexuality will understand that their future relationships will be equal to that of their straight classmates. A child with two dads will be as normal as a child brought up by a single mother. This is not the panacea that is going to solve all our wounds as there will no doubt still be bullying from bigots and still those who preach their hate from the pulpits or through the media. But equality of marriage is an incredibly big step for tolerance and acceptance.
So I urge you, if you haven’t done so already, get in touch with your MP. Tweet, call, write, email – go and see them at their weekly surgery! Never underestimate the power of your words; if enough supporters show how dedicated they are to equality, it will be hard for many MPs who care about their constituents to vote against. Encourage your friends, straight or gay, your family, everyone you know to get in touch. This is an important step in history – be part of it.