Opinion: My marriage will be different, but equal, my Lords and Ladies…

wedding ringsIt has been said that people who vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be ‘standing on the wrong side of history’ – as those of us who know and study history accept, only time will tell.  But yesterday, as we led the Equal Marriage Vigil outside the House of Lords  I was struck that we were witnessing and perhaps even making history.

What occurred at our Vigil can be variously described as glorious, fashionable, tuneful and positive. In short we gathered together the LGBT+ communities and their families – and we sang, we danced – led by the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

The serious side was there too; many members of the House of Lords – hearing the singing in their Chamber – came out, joined us and discussed it with us.    I was especially stuck and pleased at how many members of the Cross-benches came out and listened (and I noticed a couple of them even dancing along) and shared what was evident: that this Marriage Bill is a positive bill.

The Lords will vote tonight – it may be won, it may be lost – but what I now know is that the argument has now been won; the only issue is whether the Lords support the Bill tonight.  If they don’t then I fear the results will be devastating for them and their reputation and the full crushing of public opinion will be brought to bear.

The short-hand for this Bill is that it will begin to breakdown the persecution and marginalisation, it will stand up for persecuted minorities and the world is watching.  But individual peers will make their own choices and decide whether to vote for equality.  I do not want sameness, as has been suggested, I do want the right to marry. Given the chance I will be seeking to take full advantage of that law.  But I don’t want sameness.

My obsession with genealogy is considerable – I have box upon box of history and heritage.  Sadly it is unlikely that the churches of my forebears will bless my union if asked – but my family, my friends, the communities in which I live and work will know and can celebrate with us at our wedding.

This I tell you will be a happy and joyous event, but it will not be the same as other marriages.  Believe me when I say that my marriage will be different to that of my Catholic forebears who struggled to bring up their family at all during the Irish Potato Famine knowing that most of their children would die in childhood. My marriage will be different to my great-great-grandparents’ military marriage as he travelled the Empire fighting for Queen and County. I am determined it will be different to the loveless marriage of my great-grandparents where drink and food-on-the-table were dominant features.  I hope it might be more like the marriage of my parents – companionship, love, affection, support, shared endeavour.  Perhaps even like the marriage of my best friend where I have the honour of adding value to their relationships as a god-parent to their children.  My (our) marriage will be different but equal.

When I sat in a pub in Stoke-on-Trent and told a close friend  I was in a relationship with a man, little did I think that 16 years later Joan Walmsley, the first person I ever told about my relationship,  would be voting on whether we could bring that relationship together as a marriage.  I hope her noble lords and ladies join her in the content Lobby tonight; I have Joan on a list and it’s a prospective wedding guest list.  Please, my Lords and Ladies, allow me to send that invitation to print.

* Ed Fordham was councillor for Stoke West 1998-2002, stood for Stoke-on-Trent Central 1997 and is working full time for Dr Zufiqar Ali

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