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

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

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line Technical Analyst

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 1st / 2nd Line Technical Anal...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 LGV Driver / Delivery Person

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This coal merchant would like to recruit a Cla...

SThree: German Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Budget 2015: George Osborne should earn his reputation for courage by abolishing free TV licences for the over 75s

Christopher Bland
A ballot box is emptied by a voting official at the closing of polling stations in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. Greece voted on Sunday on whether to accept more austerity in exchange for international aid, in a high-stakes referendum likely to determine whether it leaves the euro-currency area after seven years of economic pain.  

Greece debt crisis: Too many Greeks decided the referendum question was 'Do you want to pay more humiliating and unfair taxes?'

Nick Sarris
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate