A brief note on the occasion of the second reading of the Equal Marriage bill

I am lucky enough to know roughly half the executive for LGBT+ Lib Dems, plus a few former exec members, at levels of friendship ranging from “occasionally talk on Twitter” through to “married to one of them”. Because of this, I know some of the background to the bill that will (fingers crossed) pass today.

I’m not going to talk about it in any great detail, because while LGBT+ equality is the principal cause (or one of the principal causes) of many of my friends, it’s not one I’ve been hugely active in myself. I’m a member of LGBT+ Lib Dems, but am not actually L, G, B, T or + myself, and am a completely inactive member, and so I would get a lot of the details wrong. But what I want to say is this:

MPs will be taking the credit for this Bill, and the Act it will, with luck, become. They will be going on TV, doing interviews, and so on. But this would not be happening without the efforts of a fairly small number of people, most not in Parliament, who spent years of their life doing the groundwork that made this possible. I’ve seen some of the work some of them have done, and heard about more of it, and that makes me want to make two points.

The first is to those activists — that even if that work isn’t publicly recognised, it is appreciated by those of us who have seen some of it.

The second is to everyone else. There are people reading this who support every party and none, and many of you — most of you — will believe that politics offers you no opportunity to make a difference, to make the world a better place, or at least more like you want it to be. And that’s understandable, because at least since the mid 1970s, possibly earlier, we haven’t had anything that could remotely be considered an actual good government in this country (if Blair had actually implemented the 1997 Labour manifesto, or if the Coalition Agreement was being kept to in some important regards, those two had the potential to be good, but as it is all we can talk about is which governments have been the least worst). I get the impression the same could also be said for the US and Canada.

But while you can’t single-handedly change the whole course of the country you live in, you *can* make a difference on one or two issues that you care about. You might not win, necessarily — the biggest political campaign I’ve been involved in in recent years was the AV referendum, where we lost — but you can make a difference. In the case of the AV referendum, I’m fairly sure that I’m personally responsible for at least a thousand “yes” votes, possibly more.

It’s very easy right now to say “they’re all the same” — and in a lot of important respects, we have very little choice in what kind of government we have, thanks to our broken electoral system. But if there’s a specific issue you care about, you *can* make a difference. Today proves it.

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6 Responses to A brief note on the occasion of the second reading of the Equal Marriage bill

  1. Tony Harms says:

    No government CAN be good except possibly when its fighting a successful war for survival. Actually, John Major’s government wasn’t bad. Tired, divided, unambitious, – despicable perhaps – but bad?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      There was all the horrible right-wing nonsense like the Criminal Justice And Public Order Act 1998, when Michael Howard and Tony Blair got into a competition to see who could push for the removal of most longstanding civil liberties. Then there was introducing PFI and privatising the railways, and various bits of anti-union legislation. They weren’t as bad as the Thatcher or Blair years, but there was good reason for them being so unpopular at the time.

      • Tony Harms says:

        I’ve probably forgotten all that stuff. But no foreign wars I think. In any case, with the current government, how would you balance the attacks on benefit claimants with equal marriage – the Iraq war with the abolition of the hereditary Lords (sort of) and is the Libyan intervention good or bad? Point I’m making is all governments tend to be a mix. Didn’t Major equalise the age of consent? I hope these longer posts mean you are feeling better.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          The Gulf war was under Major. They didn’t equalise the age of consent then, either — though they did lower consent for male homosexual sex from 21 to 18.
          And yes, all recent governments have been a mix of good and bad (can’t speak for the ones before I was politically aware, as I’m very aware that the folk-memory of these things can be different from the reality). But in general, they’ve tended to be far more bad than good, in my view.

          • Jen says:

            Peculiar historical note:

            That move to 18 also legalised anal sex between men and women, which was previously illegal even at 21. There was then some sophistry from the naysayers of history, who argued that there was now equality – one age of consent for this, another age of consent for that, and if the gays didn’t have the biology to do the one then that was their problem not the law’s.

            It’s a wonderful thing, logic.

            The 1967 Act only applied to England and Wales, so Thatcher legalised sex between men in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. One of those things that means I have to disagree with my younger self and say those eleven years were mostly bad, not wholly bad.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              I could have sworn that the legalisation of anal sex between men and women happened in 2000, around the same time necrophilia was criminalised, but you know more about this sort of thing than I do.

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