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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
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
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test