Yesterday, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states and America joined a select group of nations that have introduced marriage equality. The map I’ve featured from Freedom to Marry illustrates the situation around the world before the Yankee vote. In these damp little islands of ours, only Northern Ireland is holding back the tide, Canute-like. The fire and brimstone lot who dominate the Northern Ireland Assembly are in good company – kiddie fiddling priests, the British National Party, Ex-Soviet republics and religious fundamentalists of all persuasions who fine, flog and hang. The dusty old Ulstermen will lose the fight in the end. It’s inevitable. Reason and sanity are against them. Today, the streets of London are paved with gold sequins. It’s London Pride, a grand celebration of everything that’s been achieved. Doubtless, black cab drivers will cuss and bemused tourists will think they’ve landed in Oz. Sadly, we can’t be there to join the party.
On the 19th March 2014, same-sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales. But for those in a civil partnership, converting their union to a marriage wasn’t legally possible until today. The wheels of State turn ever so slowly and I think someone forgot to order the right stamp. Liam and I got hitched in 2008. We treated it like our wedding and splashed out on a once in a lifetime full production number with our nearest and dearest. Everyone had a splendid time (naturally, the free bar helped). Here’s a few snaps of that momentous day.
Legally, we were civil partners, something that sounded like a firm of solicitors. But whatever the Law said, we always thought of ourselves as married. Now mind and state have converged. Today, on the first day possible, Liam made an honest man of me and me of him by legally converting our union at Norwich Register Office. We didn’t bang a gong beforehand or make a big song and dance out of it. There were no generous presents, smart suits, free-flowing bubbly or tearful speeches; just the same old shoes and an impromptu meal with a couple of old muckers. We’ve already had the big day. There’s no need to do that all over again. That would be greedy. We weren’t the very first to convert. Two other north folk of Norfolk beat us to the chequered flag. But a bronze medal suits us just fine.
I’ve always been out but now I’m really proud.
Today‘s the day that same sex marriage was legalised in England and Wales. Scotland follows suit in October and it can only be a matter of time before Northern Ireland falls into line. Both England and Wales have now joined a select group of civilised nations that believe in marriage equality for all. I awoke to find my world just as I left it. We have not been smitten by a vengeful God, the sun still shines and this green and pleasant land is still green and pleasant. My advice to those who oppose same sex marriage: don’t marry someone of the same sex.
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Forget the worst recession since the South Sea Bubble, dust off that cracked glitter ball and drag out those tarnished bacofoil hot pants. It’s time to get crushed by the sequined juggernaut that is the Eurovision Song Contest, the rightful heir to the fall of Communism. This year, the travelling freak show has pitched the big top in Malmö (pronounced Malmurrrr), Sweden. Expect high camp, a blizzard of glitzy ticker tape and enough dry ice to halt global warming. Expect virginal visions in white, gay-bar strippers, fake blonds where collars and cuffs don’t match, notes as flat as the Fens and tunes once heard, never remembered. Don’t expect ABBA. The land of the midnight sun and real blonds is throwing an enormous street party like a UEFA cup final but without the drunken thuggery. The annual warble-fest costs so much to stage it attracts its very own IMF bail-out. Let’s hope nobody votes for the unkindly named PIGS (Blighty might be joining that popular club any day now). Winning will send them over the fiscal cliff.
Turkey has thrown a hissy fit and withdrawn from the competition. TRT (the Turkish broadcaster) does not like changes to the voting rules in recent years (50/50 between the public and a panel of music experts) which it claims disadvantages the Turkish entry by reducing the influence of the Turkish diaspora across Europe. That’s the point, silly. TRT also objects to the automatic qualification of songs from the so-called ‘Big Five’ broadcasters (the BBC among them) that pay the lion’s share of the costs. If TRT wants a free ride to the final, it’ll have to sign a much bigger cheque. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. To top it all, TRT got its pantaloons in a twist over a lesbian kiss live on stage. At the semis, Finland’s Krista Siegfrid landed a sloppy smacker on the lips of one of her backing dancers. Krista doesn’t actually drink from the furry cup in her day job, she just objects to the Finnish Parliament’s refusal to vote on marriage equality. Her song ‘Marry Me’ is through to the final where she’s threatening to repeat the tonsil-tickling outrage. Whether Krista has qualified because she kissed to be clever or despite of it is anyone’s guess. Overcome with moral indignation and shock, TRT has pulled the show completely. As we all know, watching a bit of girl-on-girl action turns you lesbian and there are no lesbians in Turkey, the land where men are men and goats are nervous.
Britain’s entry is an old-school power ballad sung by the gravelly-voiced Welsh chanteuse of yesteryear, Bonnie Tyler, she whose heart was totally eclipsed in ’83 after she got lost in France in ’77. The song’s not half bad (and half good either) but it hardly matters. We could put up Sooty for all the difference it would make. Mark my words. It’ll be a heartache for Bonnie. She’ll need more than a hero to fight the rising odds against a rout by the former Warsaw Pact. Well, I suppose it serves us right for Iraq. Poor old Auntie Beeb keeps wheeling out the golden oldies with their careers behind them, presumably because no-one with a career in front of them would touch Eurovision; it’s the kiss of death. Despite the parochial politics and regional gerrymandering, we’ll be waving our little union flags, raising a glass of bubbly to the campest show on Earth and hoping against hope that we don’t come last.
Here’s Bonnie at full gritty throttle:
Expedia, the giant American online travel company, is the latest corporation to step up to the plate in support of same-sex marriage in the States by commissioning a short promo video called ‘Find Your Understanding.’ When it was released, the video caused quite a stir across the pond with the religious right getting their bible belts in a twist. Say what you will about big business gate-crashing the equalities party and cashing in on the pink economy, but the more the merrier I say. It all helps the cause. I can’t help wondering though, where does Expedia stand on dispatching its customers to those far-flung places across the globe with abysmal records on human rights (including those where being opening gay can be extremely detrimental to your health)? Fancy a souk-fest in Saudi or a gorilla safari in Uganda? Book through Expedia for ‘people shaped travel.’ I can taste the hypocrisy.
The debate in the House of Commons was predictable and as suspected, the traditional wing of the Parliamentary Tory Party revolted. Despite the bluster from the Colonel Blimp types, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill passed its second reading with flying colours – by 400 votes to 175. I call that a comfortable majority. The Bill now passes to the Upper House and will no doubt get roughed up by a cohort of unelected geriatric reactionaries and dusty old farts in cassocks. I never thought I’d ever say this, but I applaud David Cameron’s bravery in facing down the rebellion. He’s trying to drag the Nasty Party into the 21st Century. He needs all the help he can get. Too many Tories are still living in the 19th Century, a time of gunboat diplomacy, child labour and rotten boroughs. They’re a dying breed and the society of inequality they cherish is dying with them. The grey men in the shires may be sharpening their knives but I suspect that Mr Cameron is safe for now. The coalition of political convenience will limp on to the next General Election. They will lose spectacularly and Mr Cameron will find himself cast out of Number Ten on his old Etonian arse (with a few daggers in his back). Don’t worry, David, a fat job in the City is assured.
On the day, the vote was all over the News. But the hacks and the pundits focused on the split in the Tory ranks rather than the issue of marriage equality itself. The canny media know that in the real world, it’s a bit of a non-issue, particularly among those under 40. By the very next day, the Press had moved on to greener pastures – another depressing scandal about NHS failure. Now that’s something that really matters. The marriage equality law will eventually pass (and I hope we pip the French at the post) and when the dust has settled, reasonable people will wonder what all the fuss was about.
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