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Friday, January 25, 2013

A final push for equal marriage in England and Wales

Earlier today the UK Government published their “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”. This is the Bill that outlines the Government’s plans for introducing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. MPs are scheduled to debate and vote on this Bill on Tuesday 5th February, which is less than two weeks away.

Projecteer Julie Price has written to her MP, Frank Roy, to explain why she believes he should vote in favour of marriage equality. Although Julie lives in Scotland and marriage is a devolved issue, meaning that the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster decides what happens in Scotland, she believes that her MP’s vote is a vital step towards securing equality for LGBT people across the UK and further afield.

Here is Julie’s letter:

“Dear Mr Roy,

I am writing with regard to the upcoming House of Commons vote on equal marriage. I was very pleased to read earlier today on the Coalition for Equal Marriage website that you are minded to vote in favour of the upcoming proposals for same-sex marriage, but still felt compelled to write to you personally to explain why I believe this is so important.

I understand that this is a devolved issue and, as such, your vote may not appear to have a direct impact on myself and other residents of the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency, but this is my attempt to express to you why your vote for equality really does matter.

I have followed the equal marriage debate with great interest for some time now and initially planned to write to you listing each of the arguments that I and many others have made in favour of equal marriage. But at this stage in the day, so close to the vote, I trust that you have read widely on the subject and are aware of the assurances that the ‘quadruple lock’ provides to concerned individuals and organisations. I am also sure that you acknowledge that marriage has continuously evolved throughout history; women are no longer their husbands’ property and divorce is legal; and therefore the legitimacy of the ‘redefinition’ arguments are questionable. I feel it would be somewhat fruitless for me to regurgitate these or the many other arguments in any more detail to you here; the points have been made both clearly and often enough by now for you to form your own decision.

So instead, I am writing to you to try and explain what it feels like to be a young LGBT person growing up in a town like Wishaw and also to explain why I believe this shouldn’t be a debate about religion or ‘redefinitions’ but about people and equality.

I was brought up and schooled in Wishaw. Until I was 18, almost every life experience I had and every person I knew was related to this town. Over the course of my teenage years I came to the difficult realisation that I was different; I was gay. I had never knowingly met another gay or lesbian person, had never even held hands with another girl in a romantic way, but I just knew deep down that that was how it was. And at first it seemed as though I was the only person in the world that felt that way, far less in Wishaw and especially in my school.

Despite doing well at school and getting on with my peers, I felt unable to ‘come out’ for fear of the repercussions and reactions of my fellow students and staff. By the time I finished my 6th year, I had managed to entrust only a handful of my closest friends with my true sexuality. Similarly, I felt unable to tell my parents until after my 18th birthday; by which time I had already secured an escape route to move away to university, partly in case their response didn’t go to plan. It was an extremely difficult time.

Towns like Wishaw exist all across the UK and in each and every one of them lives young LGBT people, many of whom undoubtedly feel the way I felt. They are scared and confused and they feel alone. They are fearful for what the future might hold for them. I’m sure that every young person has these insecurities to a greater or lesser degree, but add on top of that the fear of being disowned, bullied or discriminated against throughout your life, just for being who you are, and you find yourself in the shoes of a young LGBT person.

Thankfully, my ‘coming out’ story is a happy one, and I count myself lucky. Not everyone is as fortunate as me. Stonewall’s “The School Report” found that 65% of LGB school pupils surveyed had directly experienced bullying and according to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, suicide rates for young gay and lesbian people are up to three times higher than their heterosexual counterparts. Those figures scare me and they need to change.

I ask you to consider that, in the long-run, this upcoming vote isn’t really about churches and redefinitions; I am confident that the issues they raise can and will be worked out in time. It isn’t even about the same-sex couples currently in civil partnerships or those planning to commit in the near future; of course they deserve equality, but it’s bigger than that.

This vote for equal marriage is for every single young person who finds themselves in the position I was ten years ago; struggling with an identity that, even now in 2013, allows the law to treat them as less than equal. And it is for those who haven’t even been born yet or are too young to know who they are, so that as they grow up they will find that they have been born into a society where their sexuality no longer dictates their rights. A vote for equal marriage this year will take us all a step closer towards a place where LGBT people are treated as equals in every aspect of life. Considering the statistics above, I can’t see how that can be perceived as anything but a positive move forward.

So please, Mr Roy, I ask you, when the time comes, use your vote and your voice to say that you believe that all people, regardless of sexuality, are born equal and, as such, deserves equal rights; including the right to marry the person they choose. This is an historic moment not only for the LGBT community in the UK, but also for equal rights worldwide, and I wholeheartedly hope that you decide to stand on the right side of history.

I would be more than happy to discuss this matter with you further as you deem appropriate and have provided my contact details for this purpose.

Yours Sincerely,

Julie Price”

If, like Julie, you believe the UK Government should pass the “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”, this is your last chance to make sure your voice is heard.

Email your MP today and let them know that you want them to vote for equality.

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation have set up a website that makes it really easy to contact your local MP and you can find it HERE.

For information on Stonewall's campaign for equal marriage, click HERE.

Follow Julie on Twitter: @JuliePee