I went to my first civil partnership ceremony the other day and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
Not from the emotion of the occasion, I knew I’d be blubbing, but I was very interested to see exactly what the ceremony comprised of. We were celebrating legalising the relationship between my brother and his partner, and the service took place at Lambeth Town Hall. And I must tell you, it was one of the nicest 'wedding' ceremonies I have attended. The registrar was delightful and really seemed to get personally involved in the proceedings, the content was pretty much the same as any civil wedding ceremony, and we all cried buckets.
So, why then do I feel the need to tell you about this occasion? Well, because even though laws are being passed all over the world to allow same sex marriage and our government is committed to this cause, somehow there are still people out there who don’t agree and feel that same sex couples should not be allowed to legally commit to each other. And after having such a wonderful weekend of celebrations for my brother and his partner, I just felt the need to, as they say, vent my spleen.
Amazingly to me, there are many people (and a few that I know personally) who do not believe that same sex couples should be allowed to be married and yet they consider that they are not homophobic. They are of the - "I don’t mind what they do in the privacy of their own home but I really don’t think they should have the same rights as ‘normal’ people" – point of view. And when you talk to them, they tend to bring religion in as their benchmark and spout that marriage is about god and was sanctified in order to have children.
Well that’s about as relevant in the 21st Century as whether I should covet my neighbours ox. (I have actually attempted to do just that in order to make this point, but my neighbour sadly doesn’t have an ox, just a large guinea pig and that just doesn’t seem to have the same impact.)
What I see in these people is out and out bigotry and narrow mindedness. Heterosexual marriages are crumbling all around us and there is extraordinary unrest and violence across the globe in the name of religion. So how could any sane person want to stop people who are in love and want to commit to each other, from doing so in a legal and if they want it religious, context?
My brother and his partner only wanted a secular ceremony for themselves as they are not religious, but that was the same for me when I got married and had a civil ceremony. So to my mind, the ceremonies and the declaration of love and commitment were exactly the same, regardless of the gender of the couple. I just hope that my brother’s same sex relationship lasts longer than my heterosexual one did.
I don’t often use this column to push my own political or religious views, but this is of massive importance to me. If couples want to commit to each other, they should be able to in any way they want to, religious or otherwise. And most importantly, all couples should have exactly the same legal rights when they make that commitment. Surely that’s what equality is all about?
NOTE TO SELF: ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ Martin Luther King Jr