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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Director - Product Management

£75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...

Recruitment Genius: HGV Fitter - Technician

£16 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for someone ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Mininster: I would legislate for abortion on demand and abolish VAT on sanitary products

Caroline Criado-Perez
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence