As the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act, which I’m reliably informed will be around now. I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate those people in the Liberal Democrats whose work made it happen. I know that such an endeavour is fraught with danger because I am bound to leave somebody out and they will be upset, or hate me forever, or both, but I thought it was worth the risk – and if I do leave someone out, please tell me, either by email to [email protected] or in the comments.
So where do we start? I think it has to be with Nick Clegg. He was the first major party leader to come out and support equal marriage, he did so unapologetically, enthusiastically and repeatedly. He showed how the “in volume, on mesage, over time” actually works.
Then, of course, we have Lynne Featherstone. She told the 2011 Liberal Democrat Conference that she would be legislating for equal marriage and she did the groundwork as Equalities Minister. Behind every minister is a Special Adviser who does a lot of detailed policy work. Verity Harding was brilliantly helpful on lots of issues and on equal marriage she helped shape the act, taking our policy and getting as much of it in there as she could.
Its passage through the Commons was smoothed by MPs Stephen Williams and Julian Huppert. Our friend from Cambridge also gets a massive shout out for the eloquent manner in which he explained the issues relating to transgender people. Of course we must also remember that he in turn was well briefed by Zoe O’Connell, Sarah Brown and others.
Who can forget Liz Barker’s powerful speech in the Lords, beautifully personal, yet exquisite in the way it cut through the carp being flung by opponents? Jim Wallace and Sal Brinton were also magnificent there, too.
But, while all these people are beyond awesome, it’s not so much the great and the good I want to celebrate most today. It’s the grassroots Liberal Democrats who have done so much to secure the passage of this Bill who deserve their curtain call. LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have provided so much in the way of guidance, support, campaigning and advice. Richard Jacquard went through the Bill and the proposed amendments with forensic scrutiny. I presume that’s why Ed Fordham was able to explain something about maritime marriage law to me the last time I saw him. Ed Fordham, Paul Trollope, Edward Lord, Holly Matthies, Dave Page, Adrian Trett all did so much to persuade, lobby, raise awareness. They were so patient in the way that they really engaged with MPs, listening to their concerns. In some cases, those concerns were difficult for them to hear, but their patience, tolerance and fortitude was exemplary.
Additionally, Ed organised these fantastic vigils outside the Lords. I was only able to spend a tiny amount of time at one of them, but they took hours of work and commitment to put into place and turned College Green into a very happy, rainbow strewn, song filled place.
And the patron of LGBT+ Lib Dems, Bernard Greaves, gave wise counsel and encouragement, reminded them how to campaign and secured crucial dialogue with key players.
Liberal Youth, have been unstinting in their support too. Their members helped make this party policy and lobbied hard.
Helen Walsh, secretary of London Region Liberal Democrats did loads to ensure a good Lib Dem presence at Pride, London and made sure there were loads of placards telling everyone what the Liberal Democrats had done.
And every party member who took the time to fill in the consultation in support, or who lobbied an MP or a Lord, deserves some of the credit too. Every real life conversation, tweet, Facebook status, blog helped to create the mood music that won the day.
Even though the Bill doesn’t apply in Scotland, it would be wrong not to mention Willie Rennie for his equally vocal support for equal marriage and Liberal Youth Scotland for being so enthusiastic and for submitting the motion to Scottish Conference.
I certainly feel very proud of what we have managed to achieve by working together. As Liz Barker said in the Lords on Monday, let’s celebrate.
A happy ending
I am not the first to thank LGBT+ Lib Dems, however. Dr Huppert got there first last night, and got a telling off from the Speaker for his pains. His crime? Announcing to the world the first Liberal Democrat engagement. The exchange went as follows:
I would also like to thank the Liberal Democrat LGBT+ organisation for its sterling work. Perhaps the whole House will join me in congratulating its vice-chair, Ed Fordham, who last night got engaged to his partner, Russell Eagling.
Bercow: Order. It is always of great interest to the House to hear the contents of the hon. Gentleman’s Christmas card list, and I do not wish to cavil at his sincerity, but if he could turn his mighty mind to the Lords amendments with characteristic succinctness, the House will be indebted to him.
Congratulations to Ed and Russell. And all there is left to say is: Let the Weddings Begin!
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings