Around 500 supporters of equal marriage attended a rally outside the UK parliament tonight (3 June) to show their support for marriage equality and to let peers debating and voting know how important the issue is to them.
The House of Lords is debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales today ahead of a crucial, although not final, vote tomorrow afternoon.
The 500 pro equal marriage supporters far outnumbered a very small handful of anti equal marriage Christians.
The London Gay Men’s Chorus, numbering 150 members, performed throughout the rally dressed in morning suits, the traditional attire for weddings.
John D Carrion, the chair of the chorus, told Gay Star News: ‘The London Gay Men’s Chorus is a pillar of gay society in London and across the UK. It was very important for us to attend this landmark event and show our support.
‘We wanted to celebrate our friendships, our partners and the love we have for each other. We are delighted that [openly gay] Lord [Waheed] Alli invited us to perform and we are all thrilled to be here at this defining moment of history.’
Philip Jacob, a member of the chorus, explained to us he had just returned from holiday and had intended to spend the day resting and sleeping. However when he heard about the rally, he felt he just had to be there.
His parents are from South Africa – his father was of Indian heritage and his mother of English heritage – and they had to come to England to get married because the apartheid laws would not allow them to do so in South Africa.
He said it would be ironic if he had to leave England and go to South Africa in order to get married.
‘I wanted to come here and show my support for equal marriage because it is important to stand up and be counted’, he said.
Finn McGoldrick and Sky Yarlett, the LGBT officers for the National Union of Students (NUS), told Gay Star News that the NUS had been lobbying for equal marriage for a long time.
They said virtually all students supported equal marriage, including Christian, Muslim and Jewish students who had all been out campaigning alongside them in support of equal marriage.
‘We are the future,’ they said.
And they argued young people and students did not understand the opposition to equal marriage and they felt that the older peers in the Lords speaking against the measure were out of touch and did not represent ordinary people.
Sharon Ferguson, from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement told us it was very important for Christians to be at the rally.
She said not all Christians are opposed to equal marriage – far from it. Many gay and straight Christians supported equal marriage and it was important for their voices to be heard and for the Lords to be aware of this.
She called on the bishops in the Lords debating and voting on the bill to have the courage to vote according to their convictions. Jesus was a radical who believed in love and equality, she said.
Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitude England, another LGBT Christian group, said he felt that it was important to attend the rally as Christians were perceived as being very judgemental when it came to gay marriage.
Some Christians were promoting the message that God hates homosexuality and homosexuals. But God had created LGBT people and loved them. He echoed Sharon’s view that the bishops should have the courage to vote with their convictions.
He felt very strongly the bishops within the Anglican Church had lost touch with their congregations as many Anglicans were in favour of equal marriage.
Richard Unwin, representing GALHA, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, said that they were fully committed to equal marriage. But for them it was also important that humanist marriages were recognised under the law. Only then would there be true equality.
Steve Macey, a key member of BeLGBT, a LGBT community organization for Bedfordshire, said that it was ‘important for those who don’t have a voice to make themselves heard’.
He talked about the issues faced by LGBT people living in rural areas. It was very difficult to be openly out in rural communities as LGBT people would be abused and persecuted and so LGBT people often tried to fit in rather than stand out. However, he was attending the rally as it was important to get your voice heard.
Ed Fordham, one of the key organizers of the rally, said that he had done so because the Lords had no constituents and so it was important for them to see, hear and know that people cared about this issue because it directly affected their lives.
He described the rally as a ‘carnival’.
It was possible to get the Lords to change their minds on the issue. Many peers had been in touch with him with specific questions and there had been positive dialogue. One key result was that many bishops would be abstaining on the vote. This was a key win for the campaign.
Peter Tatchell, one of the key organizers of the rally, who has spearheaded the Equal Love Campaign spoke at the rally.
He said: ‘The battle for marriage equality began a long time ago – 21 years ago. Tens of thousands, gay and straight, have walked with us on our long march to freedom.
‘We are on the verge of marriage equality at last. We will win this battle because justice is on our side. I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone attending the rally and to all those who lobbied their MP and the peers.’
The crucial vote in the Lords will take place tomorrow and the outcome hangs by a knife-edge with it likely to be swayed by just a few peers.
You can watch GSN’s video of the London Gay Men’s Chorus singing A Little Respect at the vigil here: