“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Thankfully, our country has moved on since Jane Austen launched her playful attack on 19th Century social conventions. As a 31-year-old heterosexual woman, I’ve chosen so far not to get married, but instead of sitting at home sobbing into my embroidery, I have the choice to pursue my own path, follow my own dreams and seek my own good fortune, should I want it. And thanks to the Representation of the People Act 1928, I’ve even got the vote.
I have, however, also had the privilege of celebrating and participating in the wedding ceremonies of many of my closest, dearest friends. In the knowledge that I would be speaking today, I asked some of them what led them to make that choice, and it became obvious that each of them has their own very different and personal reasons.
Some did it for family – to establish a secure and stable environment in which to nurture and care for their children.
Some did it for their own security – emotional, financial and otherwise.
Some wanted to name the person they entrusted with their health, their wellbeing, their future and the future of their family.
And some did it simply as a joyful celebration of their partnership, to stand in front of their friends and loved ones and sometimes in the eyes of their particular God or Gods or personal faith, and say this is the person I love, this is the person I choose.
By excluding any group of society from the basic right to this choice, be it on grounds of race, gender or sexuality, we are marginalising them through law. By naming the union something else – a “civil partnership” – we are marginalising them through language. We are saying: you are less, you are other, you are not as valid.
But today, with the pending vote on same-sex marriages reaching its final reading at the House of Lords, we are on the brink of acknowledging the beautiful truth: we live in the same world, we work in the same jobs, we love to the same extent. We are all different and we are all the same, we are people and we are proud.
Next month, I’m going to Paris to have the honour of witnessing another wedding, as my friend marries the wonderful woman she has chosen to celebrate her love with, raise a family with, and spend the rest of her life with.
I appeal with all my heart to the Lords voting today to make the right choice themselves, so that I can one day soon witness the same joyful ceremony in my own country.