Guest post: What gay marriage means to my family
Tomorrow, gay marriage will finally become legal in England and Wales. In this guest post, Clara, who blogs at My Two Mums, explains why the change in the law is so important to her and her family - and why, despite already 'feeling married' to civil partner Kirsty, she's thrilled at the prospect of walking down the aisle in the presence of their little boy.
My Two Mums
Posted on: Fri 28-Mar-14 10:41:29
(32 comments )
There was a time in my life when I thought I would never get married. Even when I was a child, I never dreamt of meeting the “man” of my dreams and walking down the aisle in a big white gown. Some of my friends used to gush over weddings in films or on the TV, and one friend even had a book filled with clippings of wedding dresses and bouquets. Thinking back, I only attended one wedding as a child, and I was so young the memory is very cloudy. It just wasn't on my mind.
But that was before I fell in love.
When I met Kirsty I fell head over heels in love with her. After only 6 months I was talking to my friends about proposing and asking them for advice on how I should do it. They thought I was going mad. Don’t get me wrong - they loved her - but they never saw me getting married either, especially not before they did!
I planned a romantic break to Paris for Valentine’s Day so I could propose at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Well, that was the plan, until a beautiful summer evening on Brighton beach stole the moment. The sun was setting and we started to feel a bit cold, so we cuddled together and took in the view. I felt a lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach - I knew this was the moment. I whispered: "will you marry me?" She looked around with a huge smile on her face and immediately said yes. Little did I know, Kirsty had been seconds from proposing herself. In that moment, nothing else mattered; I wanted to shout with joy from the roof tops.
For our son to be there to witness our marriage and celebrate with us means more than you could ever imagine… We are very proud of who we are and the life we have created together. Being gay is not a life choice, we do not choose to love a person of the same sex, just as a ‘straight' person does not choose to love the opposite sex - it's within us.
When we announced our engagement, some of our friends and family didn't think it was possible for two women to marry - and in a way they were right. A civil partnership is not the same as a marriage - we would not have the same rights as a ‘husband and wife’. At the time we just wanted to make a commitment to each other, and we felt grateful we were able to stand up in front of our friends and family and express our love for each other by entering into a legal bond.
I wanted everything to be perfect and for the first time, I had visions of the big white wedding. A close friend married in the May before our wedding and it was a beautiful service. When they signed the register - a gorgeous white book - it was picture perfect.
But we had a completely different experience. When the time came to legally sign and confirm our civil partnership, we were not presented with a beautiful register but a badly printed sheet of green paper. Granted, my friend had been married in church - but we didn't have that option.
My wedding day was magical and incredibly emotional, but as I signed that piece of paper I didn't feel special - I just wanted it to be over and I don't like looking back at pictures of it. I felt cheated, that my commitment to enter into a civil partnership with the woman I love most in this world was not as important as the marriage between a man and a woman. When I introduce Kirsty, I refer to her as my wife. In our eyes we are ‘married’ but in the eyes of the law we are ‘civil partners’.
As of the 29th March however, all that will change. I may not have had the chance to sign that beautiful register, but I feel happy that others will. My wife and I were overjoyed the day we heard that the same-sex marriage law had passed through parliament. It was a very emotional time, and we shed a tear together.
We will always see our wedding day as the day we got married, but we can't miss the chance to celebrate the conversion of our civil partnership to marriage. We are already planning a big party for our loved ones, but mostly for our son. For him to be there to witness our marriage and celebrate with us means more than you could ever imagine. Our families are so happy for us, too. They have always been so accepting of our love and that means the world to us. I will hold my wife so tight the day we sign those papers. We are very proud of who we are and the life we have created together. Being gay is not a life choice, we do not choose to love a person of the same sex, just as a ‘straight’ person does not choose to love the opposite sex. It’s within us.
We feel incredibly lucky to live in a world where we are not oppressed or made to live in fear of our lives because of whom we choose to love. This new law is such a big leap forward for the LGBT community, not just for us here in England but across the world. We hope that other countries follow our example. Equality should be a right for everyone.
By Clara Taylor-Gallop
Congratulations I'm glad this is finally happening (had some conversations with Celia Kitzinger about this topic years ago - and while I know some of my gay friends weren't bothered by having to have a civil partnership I could see that being unable to marry was unfair & an important issue for others - so have always supported equal marriage rights).
I'm really glad for both of you and have a wonderful celebration with all your family and friends.
Congratulations to you both. It's a shame it's taken this long to reach this point!
Aw so lovely. Enjoy your celebrations.
I'm in the Netherlands and this post I wrote is about a conversation with my 7 yr old I had about a classmate of his with two mothers: sometimes think the world would be a better place if we all saw with 7 year old eyes....
I'm looking forward to the day it's 'just' marriage, rather than needing to qualify it with gay.
Congrats OP. You sound lovely.
I may be about to rant.
I never particularly thought one way or the other about gay marriage. I'm pro-equality, but have friends who are civilly partnered and kind of thought "they seem happy, it's more or less the same, isn't it?".
But then after years of struggling to have a biological child, we adopted DS. And people seem to be saying our marriage is not a "real" marriage either. Apparently the "best" thing for children is to be brought up by "both their biological parents". I'm not sure whether we're supposed to be second best parents, whether he's supposed to be a substandard child, or whether it's just our marriage that is substandard.
But in any case, it's now personal. I'm sorry that it took this for me to get het up about marriage for all. But now I am, and I'm happy to come out as a substandard spouse if same sex marriage is also substandard. Except of course it isn't...
And congratulations to all those getting married tomorrow!
Fucking hell Dr. You have some horrible friends .
Congrats to you on your DS and I am 100% sure neither he nor your marriage is sub standard.
Lovely post Clara! I felt so proud to be British the day that law passed through parliament (and I'm mostly Australian, but am also now British as well). What I felt most proud about was that it was pushed through by a Conservative government – I was actually shocked. Now, I've never voted Conservative, and I probably never will, but on this particular day I looked at Australia, who had a Labor government in at the time, and not even Labor supported gay marriage over there. When you realise the huge reality that this law was pushed through by a Conservative government in this country, then it makes you realise that Britain CAN move with the times and CAN be progressive. I think the momentum is starting in Australia now too, but they've since elected a Liberal government (it's ironic 'liberal' – it is Conservative) then I don't hold out much hope for a while yet. Anyway, that's enough of the politics for now, but congrats on your upcoming wedding and a huge big up to Brighton Beach! Sending love from amongst the pebbles. Maddie from Gammon & Chips. xoxo
Troopers don't worry, it's only right wing religious types on the radio who have their own ideas about what makes a proper marriage - my friends are all lovely!
Gorgeous story! I can't wait for the day we can just call it 'marriage'
Sweetheart, that "gorgeous white book", your friend signed, was part of a church wedding service. I had a civil wedding service and signed a sheet of paper. No fancy parish register for me!
For all I know, there may be a religion out there that worships tree bark and demands that all followers sign their wedding vows on green bog roll. Possibly, it's in another dimension, where everyone looks like jelly blobs with wiggly antennae and 6 eyes. ("Ah, Hhthela, if only I could have smeared my tentacle print on lustrous cream-coloured linen paper instead of green bog roll..." "But, Chthulek, you know cream paper is only for secular heathens who refuse to acknowledge the Great Tree Bark!")
That said and done... if signing a pretty book will make you happy, then I am super happy that you will have that opportunity. The whole civil partnership thing was a huge palaver. There was no need to create a separate type of marriage - all they needed to do was tweak the definition to non-specific gender. x
they couldn't though because of religion - the church felt it owned 'marriage' and the definition of it what it was. the thing with this country is that concessions to equality laws constantly have to be given for the church. in this instance it was the sexuality strand that got 'trumped', other times it's sex.
i haven't kept up with the latest - what does it being 'marriage' as opposed to civil partnership really mean please? what has changed in terms of rights and what does it mean with regard to churches? presumably they can still refuse to marry people?
confess i'm having a bit of a giggle on account of how given i went non contact with them last year i won't have to listen to my family's frothing bigotry on this one
I have a couple of friends who are now planning their wedding after holding out for this to be possible for many years. They place great importance in their faith and in a church wedding. I'm saving up for me hat
as far as i can tell from reading the details they will not be allowed a church wedding and gay marriage will only be able to be performed as a civil ceremony.
quakers who allow gay marriages aren't allowed to perform same sex marriage due to this and have been campaigning for this to change.
so it'll be called marriage but can't be performed in a church EVEN if the church leaders are willing.
You can't convert a civil partnership to a gay marriage. you have to dissolve the partnership and then get gay married.
What right does the government have to tell any church what they can and cannot do? I guess I just don't understand the relationship between the UK govt and religious denominations. If gay marriage is legal, how can it be legal if performed in a register's office, but not if performed in a church? How can a church be held to a different civil law?
Maybe what is says is that a church can't be 'forced' to perform same-sex marriages if they don't want to, rather than they can't even if they DO want to. That's the way it is here (US).
If only they'd extend the same choices to heterosexual couples, and allow us to have civil partnerships without running the gauntlet of the marriage ceremony and all the traditional sexism it entails. Hopefully same sex marriages will go some way to bring in new traditions celebrating the equality of a marriage partnership. One bride in a white dress and the other bride in a morning suit, which seems to make up most of the 'gay wedding' photos I've seen, isn't doing much to change things for the better.
VerlvetStrider- how many fucking civil ceremonies have you actually been to? Both my wife and I wore dresses and actually our CP was EXACTLY the same as a wedding other than the obvious. Heterosexual weddings don't have to be full of traditional sexism but if they are so what, a wedding or a CP should go the way the couple want it to, not how others expect them to go. Nobody would care if you wanted to get married in a suit and your husband wanted to wear a dress.
So proud to be friends with you and Kirsty. Such a fantastic post and I'm so extremely excited and happy for you both xx
I feel proud to be alive in a time where finally, weddings are recognised for what they are - a celebration of the commitment of two people who love each other. I'm bisexual, my partner is male but we are not married. We chose to have a child through IVF and so we are committed to each other and once we have time to organise it we will probably marry, but I often hear the message that we're mad not to have done it yet. I'd love for society to get to a point where nobody HAS to get married in order to prove their commitment - and that's definitely not to devalue marriage in any way. Happy and healthy relationships are what really matters; not the genders of the partners, or their legal status. So many heterosexual couples are able to marry despite having abusive or completely unfulfilling relationships, and yet some still would advocate that over a marriage borne out of happiness and love. I propose a toast - to you and your wife - may you have a future full of love
VelvetStrider, if there was 'sexism' in YOUR marriage ceremony, that's your fault, isn't it? There wasn't in mine. Both my husband and I promised to love, honour, and cherish each other. Both of us promised in sickness and in health until we are parted by death. Both of us pledged our troth to one another. Where's the 'sexism' in that?
A marriage ceremony is simply the public declaration of love and commitment between two consenting people, blessed by a loving God if they have a religious ceremony. And that should be celebrated by everyone no matter if the loving couple is gay, straight, purple, or blue!
I look back to our wedding day and it was so special, signing the paper was the most wonderful feeling and it's so sad that we can't all have that. I'm in Austalia where there aren't even civil partnerships (what does that even mean??) and my brother can't marry. He just married in LA though, I wrote about it here midthirtieslife.com/2014/03/13/a-family-wedding/
Pond I'm not married, largely because I struggle with the traditions. Yes I know you can remove most to a certain extent, although as I understand it only your father's name will be on the marriage certificate, not your mother's. My point was that so many heterosexual couples blindly follow the traditions - the woman being 'given away' or walked down the aisle, the virginal white dress nonsense, the male only speeches, 'man and wife', changing names etc. So that continues to be what 'a wedding' means to most people in our society.
There's a certain beauty and simplicity in civil partnerships and, I hope, same sex weddings. Because they don't have the same baggage, they can be more about the couple's love for one another. I hope that changes things for everybody.
Microchips to answer your question, I've only been to male CPs, where both wore suits. I have seen numerous female CP photos where friends have been guests, or the couple have been acquaintances, and the majority do seem to take on male/female roles in attire at least. I don't know why this is or if it extended throughout the ceremony, or how common this is amongst the gay community, just saying what I had observed.
Velvet I think all the 'tradition' stuff only matters if people have the accompanying attitude, ie that 'man and wife' aren't equal. I wasn't going to not change my name or to dispense with being given away just to make a point - I happen to like the tradition. If my husband were at all misogynistic I would have a problem regardless of what our marriage ceremony had been like!
Lovely post, OP.
But I confess I'm another one who doesn't really understand the difference between a civil partnership and a marriage, beyond the semantics. I'd love it if someone could explain it.
i think it is a small victory over the power of the church in this nation if anything. religion tried to, and previously suceeded in, claiming ownership of the word and concept of 'marriage' hence what was offered to gay people having to be something else in the form of CP.
the church/mosque/synagogue in this country has now lost that high handed ownership. it remains able to dictate what it recognises and what it will take part in but it has lost the right to dictate what other people can call marriage or the societal and legal definition.
this is a good thing imo and i genuinely hope it's the first in many retractions of special privileges of religion whereby they not only avoided being subject to equality legislation but got to influence what happened outside of their domain. re: not only getting to refuse to marry gay people but being allowed to dictate that society could not recognise gay people as being 'married'.
Cointreau, I think the main difference (not considering tax or legal ramifications), is that 'marriage' signifies a cultural acceptance and respect for the couple. It places a 'seal of approval' on the couple, as it were, and says 'You belong, you're ok'.
A civil partnership is, in essence, a 'consolation prize'. It says, 'Yy, you're together, but don't think for a moment that we (society) really respect your relationship. But here, have this so you'll (hopefully) shut up and go away'. It implies that the relationship has less 'value', as it were, or is less worthy of respect.
Cointreau, I think the main difference is that up until the change in legislation, my sister and I both grew up thinking one day we'd meet someone we loved and get to marry. But because I'm straight and she's gay, I got to marry the person I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and she didn't. Even though her relationship was every bit as loving and supportive and socially useful as mine.
I think these changes, though apparently only semantic, are huge. When parents used to find out their children were gay, so much anxiety came with the worry about what they, and their children, were losing because of that. Once we get rid of those losses, those socially constructed losses, then more and more negative baggage slips away.
The analogy another friend recently used about the shortcomings of civil partnerships being 'the same but different' - if you have two drinking fountains and one is for the white kids to drink from and one for the black kids… both sets of kids are getting water, so surely there's nothing wrong with that? There's plenty wrong with that, and there's plenty wrong with saying that some things should be denied to a couple just because of their sexuality.
If we break down all social and legal barriers to murder, murder still remains socially damaging. If we break down all social and legal barriers to homosexuality, then there's nothing wrong with being gay. And, we're pretty much nearly there!
Finally, a plug - Channel4 tonight, Our Gay Wedding: The Musical. I helped make it happen and I hope it captures the remarkable nature of Saturday 29th, and at the same time, beyond the extraordinary musical talent of the grooms and their families and friends (legally we got one shot at those vows, sung live, no stopping, no retakes) it's possible to see just how 'normal' their love for each other is.
Mammina and Acrossthepond - thanks for explaining so eloquently. That has given me a much clearer perspective (easy to miss from the "other side of the fence").
Mammina I watched it and thought it was brilliant - not just the performance and the sheer effort thg must have gone into it, but it was so personal, and I thought the film while the Erasure guy was singing was brilliant - they really used the opportunity to be thought-provoking and get the message across. Fantastic
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