THE BLOG

The Queen's Queens

18/07/2013 15:39 BST | Updated 16/09/2013 10:12 BST
AP

Yesterday, Britain, finally, legalised gay marriage.

Speaker John Bercow told the House of Commons that gay marriage had become "enshrined in law"-- The bill to legalise same-sex marriage in England and Wales cleared Parliament yesterday.

Over the past few weeks there has been much disapproval from politicians and the public on an issue that has caused much divide in party politics and society for a number of years.

As with any bill passing through Parliament, it is the signature of The Queen's hand that formalises a bill, elevating it to becoming law.

My twitter feed was bombarded with copious amounts of praise for Her Majesty but, as I have found, The Queen has always been for equal rights for homosexuals: I refer back to the 1950's and the protagonist of my latest play, Very Pleasant Sensations: Benjamin Britten. At this time Britten was investigated by the police, who were under immense pressure from the home secretary David Maxwell Fyfe, in his demands to enforce the anti-homosexuality laws.

Like most of the time, Britten was afraid and frightened by the police he pondered encouraging his long-term partner, boyfriend and tenor, Peter Pears to enter a sham marriage to distract this unwanted attention. Nothing was done in the end.

In December 1976, Britten died in his beloved town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk. In the immediate days after, an official arrived at the couple's home with a letter of condolence for Pears from Queen Elizabeth. In the incredibly intolerant world of the 1970s, our monarch had made a very clear statement, one that quickly became public and attracted comment - the first time such a message is known to have been sent. Here, Britten and Pears' relationship was known, celebrated and remembered by the head of state, the first legal recognition of a homosexual couple in modern-day Britain.

On Tuesday night, during the last of the debates surrounding the recent bill on Same-Sex Marriage in the House of Lords, Britten's legacy was once again recognised and celebrated. Lord Berkeley, Britten's godson, told fellow peers the composer had been in a relationship that was regarded as "illegal, criminal" in its day, but was, in fact, "a marvellous and inspiring marriage".

This, once again, is a true affirmation of Britten's legacy, not only as a musician and composer but also as a gay man.

The bill enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales. It also will allow couples that had previously entered into a civil partnership to convert their relationship to a marriage.

The first same-sex marriages could take place a year from now, which is amazingly news for homosexuals across Great, Great Britain.

Back in Aldeburgh, I hear that new flowers lie on Britten's grave in the cemetery of St Peter and Paul's Church, the place he chose to rest. Peter Pears lies next to him. Together in life; together in death.

Very Pleasant Sensations opens next Thursday at the Cockpit Theatre.http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/show/very_pleasant_sensations