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United Kingdom: 1971 gay marriage ban is history. Rejoice!

1971 gay marriage ban is history. Rejoice!

Ban imposed only 33 years ago. Now repealed
Marriage Act 1949 doesn’t prohibit same-sex marriage
First same-sex marriages take place at midnight on Friday

London, 27 March 2014 - “I rejoice that the ban on same-sex marriage in England and Wales is finally being lifted after a campaign for its repeal that lasted 33 years. The ban was imposed for the first time in 1971. Previously, there was no legal prohibition on same-sex marriage.

“The 1949 Marriage Act does not require marriage partners to be male and female. The outlawing of same-sex marriage is a recent and historically brief invention by what was a deeply homophobic political and religious establishment. From 29 March, the ban on same-sex marriage is history. Hurrah!” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

For more than two decades, he spearheaded the campaign to open up civil marriage to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation - including organising the first challenge to the ban when five same-sex couples from OutRage! filed marriage licence applications at Westminster register office on 19 March 1992. As a leader of the Equal Love campaign, he has also championed the repeal of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships.

“The government made the legalisation of same-sex marriage needlessly complicated. All it had to do was repeal the legislation banning same-sex marriage. Under the main marriage law, the Marriage Act 1949, there is no legal impediment to the marriage of lesbian and gay couples. They are, by default, allowed to marry,” added Mr Tatchell.

“Instead, David Cameron and Nick Clegg chose the senselessly complicated, convoluted option of legislating a completely new set of marriage laws exclusively for lesbian and gay couples. We now have two separate marriage laws - the Marriage Act 1949 for opposite-sex couples and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 for same-sex couples. This is not equality. It is segregation in law.

“The ban on same-sex marriage was first enacted in the Nullity of Marriage Act 1971. This ban was later incorporated into the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. All the government needed to do to ensure marriage equality was repeal the 1973 Act and amend some secondary legislation. That would have been the simplest, cheapest, fairest and most principled way to ensure equal marriage for all.

“Speaking personally, I would not want to get married. I share the feminist critique. Marriage has an unseemly sexist, patriarchal history. But as a democrat, I defend the right of others to get married if they wish. I believe we should all be equal before the law; that homophobic discrimination is wrong and should be overturned. Banning LGBT people from marriage was anti-gay discrimination. That’s why I fought to overturn it, despite my own personal reservations about the institution of marriage,” said Mr Tatchell.


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