The End of the Beginning?

Gay marriage is not the end of the fight, but the start of a whole new chapter. Sébastien Orlande investigates.
gay-marriage2If the American writer Charles Bukowski concluded that good old fashioned, straight-forward heterosexual love was “a mad dog from Hell”, then who knows what he would have made of same-sex attraction. Judging from the man’s assorted writing, his love life was complicated enough without living with the anxiety of social stigma and persecution. Maybe if he were gay, the added stress would have resulted in even better literature. 2013 will potentially bring a milestone in the history of gay rights in the United Kingdom – the legalisation of gay marriage. We’re talking full marriage equality, not the not-so-equal civil partnerships that were legalised in 2004.

There is indeed a strong irony to the fact that gay marriage could be legalised under the centre-right watch of a Conservative government. It should come as no surprise that the Conservative party hasn’t got a glowing history concerning gay rights. Indeed, should it come to pass, pigs will undoubtedly take flight over Westminster as such a victory has taken place under a government run by a man who voted to keep Section 28 back in 2003. However, to give Mr. Cameron his due he did apologise for that – I’m sure the fact that a general election was looming had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, when the “enemy” dictates that homosexual union should be considered on an equal footing with heterosexual union, one can’t deny major progress has been made.

Should gay marriage be legalised across our nation, it raises one important question for gay rights campaigners: now what? Is this the final end of years of campaigning? It would be deeply naïve to think that this would mark the end of homophobia in Britain.

It can’t be denied that Britain has come a long way in a short period of time: it’s only been forty-six years since homosexuality was decriminalised; forty-four since the Stonewall riots of 1969. The World Health Organisation only decided homosexuals weren’t on the same plane as the insane as recently as 1990. Electro-shock treatment was commonplace in the past as a means of ‘curing’ homosexuality in both Britain and the United States. Indeed, the bisexual American rock musician Lou Reed was subjected to such treatment is his adolescence for homosexual behaviour and mood-swings. Needless to say the homosexual tendencies stayed as did, as any music journalist will tell you, the mood- swings.

The legal side of things is, however, only part of the picture concerning the issue of homophobia in society. Whilst the majority of the British public appear to welcome gay marriage, there is no denying that homophobia still continues to be a major problem in schools and the workplace. The fact that suicide amongst gay youth continues to be a major issue shows that not all is well in society regarding acceptance of homosexual individuals.

In addition, whilst the talons of organised religion continue to penetrate modern society, it appears that homophobia is here to stay. The more liberal Church of England is currently in a crisis regarding gay marriage, stating that gay priests who are married can still become bishops only so long as they are celibate. Short of hidden cameras and midnight raids, it does seem an impossible rule to enforce. It is interesting, however, that they won’t officially go on record as saying that gay sexual acts are as morally acceptable as heterosexual acts.  Perhaps it’s religion that’s the issue – however, I have known many homophobic atheists.

Perhaps it’s a generational problem – older people do tend to be more homophobic, but, if it were solely a generational issue, then there would be no homophobic bullying in schools. Maybe, we just have to accept that one of the darker elements of human nature is a built in wariness and dislike of people different to the majority of society. We can however be sure of one thing: only time will tell.


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