BRITAIN AND MARRIAGE

To see the image of two men saying “I Do” projected onto the House of Commons is a pretty exhilarating moment for me, as you might imagine. When I left Britain twenty-one years ago, there was no question that America led the way in equal rights for gays. No longer. What’s remarkable about the British approach is their complete pragmatism. Legally, the relationships are called “civil partnerships.” Colloquially, everyone calls them what they are: civil marriages. I love the symbolism of Elton John marrying in the same civic space and by the same civil authority as the Prince of Wales. Here’s more on a remarkable day in my homeland. I’m particularly moved that the first man to marry his beloved will be someone terminally ill. “We are extremely happy and feel a great sense of achievement,” the man said at his hospice after the ceremony. That’s how much it matters to be accorded basic human dignity. I remember my attendance at a commitment ceremony (with no legal force) over a decade ago for an ex-boyfriend of mine in the advanced stages of AIDS. It meant so much to assert his humanity before he lost his life. In Britain, where “Virtually Normal” was published a decade ago, I faced derision from some in the gay community at the time for arguing that marriage was the central front in the battle for gay equality. It never occurred to me to believe that within ten years, we would have won. If I had stayed there, I’d be a fully equal citizen by now. Which prompts an interesting question: how many American immigrants in the past have actually had to give up liberty in order to come to this country? Welcome to the future.

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