Love Is Love
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.” - Harvey Milk
In Central Point Virginia, 1958 the police raided the home of a young married couple; they were arrested, charged and sentenced to 1 year in prison. Their prosecution was not for something that nowadays we would class as a criminal act, but for "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth". They were the Lovings; their surname quite appropriate for their story. Mildred and Richard Loving were a mixed race couple who had married out of state and in Virginia 1958 this was illegal. It was, in fact, the appeal against their sentence that became a turning point for interracial marriages in the US. The head of the U.S Federal Court System at the time, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that “Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival....” Here in the UK, though not always socially acceptable, interracial marriages have never actually been against the law but even so, if we flash forward 47 years after the ruling of Loving vs Virginia, love is still fighting for acceptance on both sides of the pond.
Of course at this point, I am not talking about interracial marriage but rather same sex marriage; though why either needs a qualifier, I don’t know - surely it’s all just marriage. It can’t be denied that the LGBT community has endured many prejudices over the years and are still fighting an ongoing battle to overcome them. Now, I don’t claim in any way, shape or form to be an authority on the subject; in fact this blog is mostly my musings on what kind of shoes to wear on your wedding day; but I am posed with a question that I thought it was important to discuss. If marriage is in fact a basic civil right, how is it that in our “progressive” society we have been denying it to a large part of our population for so long?
So, since the start of the 21st Century a number of changes have been made in UK law under the term “equality”. In 2005 the Civil Partnership Act was passed that allowed same sex couples some of the rights that married couples have - although not all. For the most part the Civil Partnership Act was celebrated, although some viewed it as a slight: it was not identical to marriage and therefore was not truly equal. I think the American TV and Film writer Aaron Sorkin sums it up best in his show ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ when in response to the questions "what is wrong with civil unions? And why shouldn’t we-" the character Matt Albie cuts off his colleague and states;
“'Cause there's no way to get to the end of that sentence without saying that homosexual love is something less than heterosexual love and watching you trip all over it makes me want to hit you on the head with Liberace.”
In this scene he then goes on to challenge those who have made the argument that allowing same sex couples to marry will somehow damage the sanctity of marriage as a whole by posing the question;
“Let me ask you something: How is my marriage, your marriage, or anyone else's marriage even marginally affected by the gay couple two doors down also getting married? And if it is, how does that become their problem?”
Of course, as I said earlier, I am no authority, (and to be brutally honest most of the things I know in life I learnt from television,) but I do think that Mr Sorkin makes some excellent points. If love is truly blind, how can a governing body put limitations on it?
As I write this blog, however the Scottish Parliament have just passed a bill by 105 votes to 18 to allow same sex marriage in Scotland and this follows a similar bill that was passed in July 2013 in England and Wales. This leaves only Northern Ireland left in the UK where same sex marriages are neither legal nor recognised (marriages that take place outside of NI are recognized as civil partnerships). You could definitely say that progress is being made. Unfortunately, there are caveats to these laws; religious organisations will have to “opt-in” to offering weddings and the legislation also states that the Churches of England and Wales will NOT be able to perform ceremonies, but nevertheless as of March 29th 2014 everyone in England and Wales will be allowed to marry under law and hopefully by autumn in Scotland as well.
Personally I think this is a big win for love as a whole. If you are lucky enough to find someone that you want to pledge your entire life to, bureaucracy should not prevent this. And though I do find myself deeply saddened to learn that Scotland is in fact only the 17th Country in the world to allow gay marriage, I live in the hope that one day this world will have moved past such prejudices and that such atrocities as those occurring in Russia and Uganda will belong to the annals of history.
“At some point in our lifetime, gay marriage won’t be an issue, and everyone who stood against this civil right will look as outdated as George Wallace standing on the school steps keeping James Hood from entering the University of Alabama because he was black.” - George Clooney