Couples don't need MPs preaching about love

Share

There's a 1913 Suffragette poster at the V&A museum in London, which I first saw on the wall of a brilliant feminist academic who tutored me at Cambridge. It has 10 simple, woodcut images illustrating the headings: "What a Woman may be, and yet not have the Vote", and "What a Man may have been, and yet not lose the Vote." The first five show women in the roles of mayor, nurse, mother, doctor, teacher and factory hand. The second five show men in the roles of convict, lunatic, proprietor of white slaves, unfit for service and drunkard. I thought of it as I watched the equal marriage debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

If we were to reissue the poster today, it might bear photographs illustrating "What heterosexuals may have been, and yet preach the sanctity of 'one-man-one-woman' marriage" and "What gay people may be, and yet not be allowed to marry." On Tuesday afternoon, gay and lesbian MPs stood up and spoke movingly about all they have been, and yet still may not marry: Mike Freer has been in a committed relationship for 21 years; Margot James has been living with her partner for 15; Angela Eagle has been in a civil partnership since 2008; Nick Herbert's constituents happily elected him as an openly gay MP, and he has been in a relationship for 13 years, and a civil partnership for three.

Chris Bryant held his civil partnership ceremony in the very Houses of Parliament where last week he had to explain with great patience to Roger Gale MP that comparing gay marriage with incest "is profoundly offensive – not only to a great many people in this country who have formed civil partnerships, but to quite a few people on both sides of this House".

Mr Gale, as it happens, was one of those illustrating the category: "Married three times and divorced twice" – but he can still speak out about the sanctity of marriage, and why Mr Bryant and his partner should be excluded from it. James Gray, the Tory MP for North Wiltshire, was next, representing the subgroup: "Left his wife of 26 years after having a 19-month affair with a married woman while his own wife was fighting cancer."

When the affair was revealed, the cuckolded husband wrote to his local newspaper: "The irony is that I will not reap the benefits of Mr Cameron's excellent family-based policy proposals because one of his own MPs has ripped my own family apart."

Also speaking against equal marriage was Adam Afriyie, who is divorced and married to another divorcee. The Tory blogger Iain Dale claims to know of two male MPs who are married to women, but having affairs with men. One can only wonder how they voted.

The difference between this and the suffrage debate is this: back in 1913, even the most vehement anti-suffragist didn't argue that giving women the vote would change the definition of voting. Equal marriage doesn't redefine marriage; it just lets all consenting adult couples do it. Let's hope that, in a few years, it will seem as obvious and unquestionable as letting all adults vote.

twitter.com/@katyguest36912

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...