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Legislation is Only Half the Battle for Equality

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed through its third reading in the House of Commons yesterday, allowing it to now be debated in the House of Lords before hopefully becoming law.

An amendment by Labour to ensure that the Government also holds a consultation on whether to allow heterosexual couples to enter civil partnerships marks another step towards equality between heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual couples.

The bill passed by a large majority of 205, showing concrete support for this incredible step, but it is sad that 161 MPs continue to show opposition to the motion and that 119 were not present at the vote. Still, we must remain enthused that the legislation passed through the House of Commons. Of course, there is further scrutiny, perhaps much more in depth, to be undertaken in the House of Lords, but we are halfway to some fantastic marriage reform, allowing homosexual couples across the UK to commit to each other in marriage with their heterosexual counterparts.

Labour’s amendment to include a consultation on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is also important. Whilst marriage is “religious” in its connotations, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists and mixed-religious couples are excluded. Furthermore, it also demonstrates another level on which homosexual couples are differentiated from their fellow heterosexual citizens. The new proposal to the Government is simple; allow heterosexual couples to enter civil partnerships, or abolish civil partnerships. To continue this difference between heterosexual and homosexual couples is to shift equality in the wrong direction.

However, a change in legislation is only half the battle. The country continues to face the problem with the actual day-to-day perceptions and discrimination of LGBTQ* people. As we have seen before, given women the vote and other equalities does not rid the evil that is discrimination via sexism. The same stands with LGBTQ* rights – homophobia and stigma based on sexuality continues to exist. A woman even tried to drive through the gates of the Palace of Westminster during the vote yesterday in a bid to show her lack of agreement; people will go to incredible lengths to show their opposition. Whilst “outing” is a problem and a risk, we must continue the battle for sexuality equality.

Despite the vote being a landmark victory, we’re not quite at proper equality yet. Hopefully, we can reach a day where marriage is marriage, no matter who is in it.

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