The headline in today’s Independent, “Gay marriage could be lawful within a year”, came as great news to me and my partner. We’ve set a date next summer for our wedding, and so equal marriage can’t come soon enough. Not because we’re gay. As it happens, I’m a woman and he’s a man, so it’s a “straight wedding” that we’ll be having. It’s important to us because we want our marriage to mean something. And as long as marriage is not an equal opportunity, it means that little bit less.
My reasons for wanting to marry are many and complex. They’re different from the reasons why my parents married 40 years ago, but also in many ways the same. And while my marriage itself will be different from my parents’ marriage, and different from my gay friends’ marriages, too - I hope that it will also be the same. If it’s as strong as some of the civil partnerships I know, I’ll be a lucky wife indeed.
Some arguments against “gay” marriage are confused (calling it “gay” marriage in the first place is confused: it’s just marriage.) For instance, my partner and I don’t plan to have children, while my closest lesbian friends are already pregnant with their first child. And yet, I've never been told that my marriage will be invalidated by its lack of procreation. I can hardly promise to love and support my partner any better than my best friend loves and supports his, so I’ll feel a bit uncomfortable raising a toast to my husband when my friend still has to put his “husband” in quotes.
On the other hand, some people just believe that allowing gay couples to wed will devalue the institution of marriage. I can’t understand that argument. Lots of things make marriage less meaningful now than it was, say, in the 1950s: divorce rates; cohabitation rates; associating a lifelong commitment with getting a tax break… But allowing all adult couples to take part? Surely that has to be a given.
Either we, as a society, believe that marriage is still relevant – in which case it has to be relevant for any grown-up couple willing to make that commitment; or we accept that it no longer means anything – and then we can restrict it to an elite group of couples picked out by the Pope. We can’t have it both ways, and I can’t sign up to the latter idea. When I sign up to marriage, I hope that will be an option for all.
Independent Voices has launched a campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. To read more about our Equal Partners campaign and sign the petition, click here.