Of Mutant Prisms

BCN 119 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 119, Summer 2013

Over many weeks, Parliament debated the same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales.  Each stage so far has passed by clear majorities.  The bill is called the Same-Sex Marriage bill, due in part to lobbying by BCN, BiUK and Bisexual Index, and so there was a remarkable amount of consensus with many from both sides of the debate referring to same-sex rather than ‘gay’ marriage.  Beneath that veneer though there was a lot of talk of gay couples and straight couples, and while parliamentarians and Government Equalities Office press statements were using the inclusive terms, the media coverage whether TV or newsprint was all about “gay marriage”.

Memorable lowlights of the debate included Edward Leigh MP wailing “we have to get away from the idea that every single thing in life can be forced through the merciless prism of equality”, and the Duke of Montrose taking a stab at the phrase “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” and getting into a muddle that ended up coming out as “lesbian, gay, and gender transmutant people”.  At that point I like to think a generation of queers who grew up watching cartoon show Battle Of The Planets punched the air and shouted “transmute!”

On the upside there were some heartening personal stories from out MPs – and those with queer family.  Lord Elis Thomas talked about his son and son-in-law’s marriage; Lord Carlile about how it was unfair that one of his five daughters should have a lesser relationship in the eyes of the law than the rest.

In the Commons, there was a discussion largely between MPs Stephen Williams, Julian Huppert and Caroline Lucas, about how the bill failed people who don’t identify as male or female, and about the restitution of marriages annulled under the Gender Recognition Act.  Sadly there wasn’t the support in the chamber to amend the bill accordingly, but it was good to hear non-binary identities being recognised in the Commons – for perhaps the second time ever.

As we go to press the bill has just a few stages more to get through, and a similar debate is about to begin in the Scottish Parliament.