On Saturday, Christine and I went to the wedding of a couple of friends we’ve known for a few years. Co-incidentally, Saturday was the first day that same-sex couples could legally marry in England and Wales.
A bill to change the law was passed last year, and on the 13th of this month, same-sex couples who had married overseas had their marriages automatically recognised as such here. At the same time unmarried couples were able to give notice and the first same-sex marriages happened just after midnight on the 29th March.
The wedding we went to was a mixed-sex marriage, but a marriage all the same. The only thing that was slightly different was that the registrar stated that a marriage was between ‘two people’ and not ‘a man and a woman’, as it was before and when Christine and I got married last year.
I’m really pleased that any two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other can now marry, regardless of their sexual orientation or genitalia. Though Britain has had a compromise of ‘civil partnerships’ since 2005 – offering the same legal status as marriage – it’s good to see that every couple can now be treated equally.
Well, mostly. Whilst same-sex couples should have no problems obtaining a civil marriage, religious marriages are only offered to same-sex couples by a small handful of religious groups – namely the Quakers and the Unitarians. Same-sex marriages are not yet available in Scotland, although the relevant legislation has been passed so it is only a matter of time before this changes. Northern Ireland, however, refuses to allow or recognise same-sex marriages. There are some other issues too.
And there are still changes to happen in wider society. Though a majority of people in the UK support same-sex marriages, around 20% of people would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding. But the tide of opinion is going in the right direction and, on the whole, I feel that British society is more accepting of LGBT people now than it has been for any time in history.