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Gay Marriage Vote: A Victory for Love and Equality

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GAYMARRIAGE
Rakshita Patel / Peter Tatchell Foundation

This is a resounding, historic victory for love and equality. It has bought joy and hope to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who love each other and who want to get married.

I am, of course, referring to the vote by British MPs, 400-175, in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will legalise marriage between people of the same sex.

We are on the cusp of ending the last major legal discrimination against gay people. This vote for equal marriage is the culmination of the struggle for homosexual equality that I and others began in the 1960s. We are nearly there.

The next major battle on the bill will be in the House of Lords, where the outcome is far from certain. The opponents of equal marriage are determined to make a last ditch stand in defence of marriage discrimination. They want to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as second class, unequal citizens.

Our love will triumph over their prejudice.

During the later stages of the Bill there will be amendments tabled to end the legal ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is just as offensive as the prohibition on same-sex marriage. We stand for full equality, not the gay-only equality offered by this Bill.

The opponents of same-sex marriage are a vociferous homophobic minority, mostly motivated by irrational religious dogma. They want to maintain heterosexual privilege in law; putting tradition before dignity, fairness, equality and compassion

They are resorting to smears and scare tactics, including the unfounded claims that same-sex marriage will be forced on religious institutions and that it is the slippery slope to legalising polygamy and incest. These are revolting slurs, unworthy of any genuine person of faith.

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Whatever our personal views about marriage and gay rights, in a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law. The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should be repealed.

This legislation is about ensuring equal marriage rights for all. Denying lesbian and gay couples the right to marry disparages and insults their love.

The fact that some senior politicians and churchmen believe same-sex couples are unworthy of marriage is proof that homophobia is still an acceptable prejudice at the highest levels of society. Whatever their intentions, their support for discrimination in marriage law gives comfort to bigots everywhere.

It should be emphasised that the battle for equal marriage did not begin this year or last year. It started way back in 1992 when, together with my colleagues in the LGBT rights group OutRage!, I Heorganised the first challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage. At our instigation, five same-sex couples filed marriage licence applications at Marylebone Register Office in London. They were refused.

Twelve years later, while most LGBT organisations accepted the second best option of civil partnerships when they were legislated in 2004, OutRage! and I continued the campaign for marriage equality.

In 2010 we formed the broad-based Equal Love coalition, with support from cross-party MPs, trade unions, the National Union of Students and secular, humanist and LGBT religious organisations.

Two years ago, in February 2011, the Equal Love campaign filed a still on-going legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which challenges the UK's twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships.

It was this legal case that helped prompt the government to commit itself three months later to consult on ending the ban on same-sex marriage, leading to David Cameron's famous Conservative Party conference speech in October 2011, where he declared his support for same-sex marriage. Bravo!

Around the Web

Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom - Wikipedia, the free ...

BBC News - Q&A: Gay marriage

Equal civil marriage consultation | Home Office

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