Why we should all support Equal Marriage

Mathew Hulbert 

© Starobserver.com

Let’s be honest, it’s not the easiest time to be a Liberal Democrat.

Part of a Coalition Government with our traditional enemies, implementing changes to health, welfare and education which, I very much hope, we would most certainly not be doing  if we were in Government by ourselves. We get arrows shot at us from all sides; the Left call us traitors to the cause and the Right think we’re the ones preventing them from being properly Conservative.

However, on a host of issues, this Government is taking great strides in making Britain better, fairer and greener. One of these is very close to my heart.

I ‘came out’ as being gay just over a year ago, having been in the proverbial closet for more than half of my life, around 15 years. It was daunting but my family and friends have been brilliant, realising that this is just who I am, how I was born; just like some people are attracted to the opposite sex, I’m attracted to people of my own gender. Nothing more complicated about it than that. All myself and other members of the LGBT community ask for is equality, genuine equality, nothing more, nothing less.

Great strides have, of course, already been taken. The abolishing of the vile Section 28 which made illegal the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools (in effect aiding homophobia by making it illegal for teachers to explain that some people fall in love with people of their own gender and that there’s nothing wrong with that.) Civil Partnerships, which enabled gay people to gain the same legal rights as married couples. And, for these and other achievements, the last Labour Government deserves great praise. But there is still much, much further to go.

The current ‘controversy,’ of course, is about gay marriage or – as I prefer to call it – marriage equality. For most people, this isn’t an issue; being gay is no longer (quite rightly) shocking or a cause of alarm. But, of course, very sadly, there are those for whom being gay is seen as anything but natural; you know the rhetoric, we’ve heard it again from some Catholic Bishops and others in recent weeks, “it’s an abomination,” “it’s morally wrong,” “It undermines families,” etc, etc. I hate having to listen to such vile and wrong words being spoken or to read them in our printed press, but – as disgusting as it is – it does serve one purpose. Such language makes those who utter or write it seem so extreme, that anyone with any kind of common sense will realise that they’re clearly wrong.

These Bishops and others seem not to have realised that our society has moved on. Yes, of course, homophobia is still a massive problem, especially in all too many of our schools, and must be tackled firmly and swiftly wherever it rears its ugly head. But it can’t be denied that polls show that there’s been a substantial change in mood in society’s views in regards to their general feeling about gay people in recent years, which is brilliant. Marriage equality is the next obvious step in this progression.

I disagree with my party leadership on a number of matters, from the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through Parliament (which I hope will be dropped), to the Academies and Free Schools agenda.

But I’ve never been prouder to be a member of our great party than I was this weekend, when our leader Nick Clegg re-affirmed his and our party’s commitment to marriage equality. Our party has the longest and proudest record of any major British party in terms of supporting gay rights and proposing policies to enact them. Now, of course, we are in a position – being in government – to do just that. This is about equality and fairness. Who, if they’re being honest with themselves, could possibly argue with that?

  • Mathew Hulbert is a Liberal Democrat Councillor in Leicestershire, Chairman of the East Midlands Social Liberal Forum and a member of two LGBT+LD Working Groups. He writes here in an independent capacity. Follow him on Twitter via: @HulbertMathew

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