For Danielle Wilde, who will marry her partner Gemma (pictured above, Danielle on right) this September, the Same Sex Marriage Act - which comes into place on Saturday 29 March- may not the most important issue in the gay community but it does dismantle the final institutional barrier to equality
When my fiancée Gemma and I fell in love in May 2012 the idea that we would be able to legally marry two years later never crossed our minds. We knew that we loved each other and that we wanted to be together forever, but marriage was a party that us Cinderella gays were not invited to.
In 2004 we saw the advent of Civil Partnerships; the Tesco Value version of marriage that looked like marriage and smelt like marriage but we all knew was made from cow’s eyelids and chicken’s bumholes. “It’s fine” we said, as we assembled in town halls in our weirdly heteronormative finery knowing that these ceremonies lacked many of the legal rights afforded by heterosexual marriage.
We said “it’s fine” when the bureaucratic infrastructure of daily life (banks, mortgage lenders, mobile phone providers) never bothered to update their systems to include the ugly sister of “married/ single/ divorced” meaning many civil partners were erroneously classified as single on official paperwork because no other label fit.
We said “it’s fine” when we had to refer to our significant others as civil partners instead of husband or wife. The word marriage has a rich cultural cache whereas civil partnership sounds like you’re sponsoring a road safety awareness scheme at city hall. We said it was fine because it was the only option available to us in law. We said it was fine until we realised it wasn’t.
You only have to look at statistics of abuse, suicide and homelessness among gay and trans teens, not to mention the overseas horror of Uganda, Russia and a hundred other countries, to realise that gay marriage is not the most urgent issue we face as a community. But for UK gays, the Same Sex Marriage Act dismantles the final institutional barrier to equality that remains.
The state is not the arbiter of love and romance and you don’t need a piece of paper to define your relationship. But for gay people, the state has been defining our relationships for hundreds of years; first by criminalising them, then ignoring them and finally by palming us off with an ersatz alternative.
Danielle Wilde (right) with her partner Gemma
As a feminist I find the institution of marriage somewhat problematic, but so is shopping at Sainsbury’s. The world is problematic. It’s ugly. If you can find something beautiful and transcendant in all this miserable sludge; something that finally engages you in this idea of “forever”, that calls your name from the cultural landfill of Olly Murs and Twitter and heartbreaking retail wastelands then doesn’t that warrant some kind of celebration? Shouldn’t we be announcing something like that with trumpets and military drums and rearing brass stallions? Doesn’t it deserve to be recognised in law in the same way it would be if my partner happened to be male?
Gemma would be my wife irrelevant of same sex marriage legislation. We have woven our lives together and the intricate tapestry we have produced rolls out before us like a path we’ll walk forever. We have built a home together, we will raise beautiful children together and we will still be holding hands in 100 years time wherever we are by then; the law doesn’t change how I feel. But for all those gays that went before us and all those that live today in fear of prosecution, of corrective rape, of death, I owe it to them all as well as my own soppy heart to stand up and say “I do”.
You can follow Danielle @RAGING_BULLdyke
Images courtesy of Holly Falconer