First gay weddings: From today, marriage is an institution open to all, regardless of their sexuality. Britain should be proud

This newspaper has campaigned hard for the changes that come into effect today for the simple reason that it should be open to all people to formalise their relationship

Share

And so, in a riot of pent-up love, commitment and solemnised vows – with a rainbow flag flying proudly over Whitehall – Britain takes a historic step into a more liberal, egalitarian future. With the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act’s passing into law at midnight last night, hundreds of people across the country will today seize their first opportunity to get married, and thousands more are expected to follow suit over the months to come.

The case in favour of the modernisation of Britain’s matrimonial rules may appear self-evident to many readers of The Independent. But it bears restating, nonetheless. This newspaper has campaigned hard for the changes that come into effect today for the simple reason that it should be open to all people to formalise their relationship should they wish to do so, regardless of gender or sexuality. Marriage is a multi-levelled affair, a contract at once legal, social and emotional. There can be no justification for its being limited to one particular group. Equally, the notion that the institution might be somehow damaged by its extension can only be an erroneous one; in fact, the ideal of the union between two people can only be bolstered by making it available and relevant to all.

Today's shift would be a source of profound satisfaction in any event. When considered in context it is even more so. After all, just 50 years ago, homosexual acts between men were a criminal offence (and between women were barely recognised), and it was not until 2000 that openly lesbian, gay and bisexual people were allowed to serve in the armed forces. There is still some way to go before the old bigotries are entirely rooted out. There is still discrimination, even violence, based on sexual orientation. But the legalisation of same-sex marriage – or, as it is perhaps better considered, the extension of the institution to all – is both an unmistakable step in the right direction and a move that will, over time, only lead to a further erosion of old divisions, prejudices and misconceptions.

Controversies do, of course, remain. Even as the majority of Britons are in favour of the new law – about 70 per cent, according to polling – there are still pockets of resistance. Sad to say, recent surveys record more than one in five men and one in 10 women claiming that they would refuse a wedding invitation from two people of the same sex. Religious objections are also stubbornly persistent. Yesterday’s remarks from the Archbishop of Canterbury softening the Church of England’s stance are welcome. But Justin Welby faces criticism from many for even a hint of acceptance. Meanwhile, legal provisions that include a “quadruple lock” to ensure that no religious organisation can be forced either to marry same-sex couples, or to allow such a ceremony to go ahead on their premises, indicate a degree of special status still.

Fundamental shifts in social mores cannot be accomplished overnight, however. But the billows of confetti across the country this weekend mark a milestone in our social evolution, even if there are a few practicalities that will take time to work through. Britain has long been known as a tolerant, forward-thinking society. Today is a day to be proud to be British.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The traditional Boxing Day hunt in Lacock  

For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all