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Ten years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons

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Authored by Sean Waite
Published on 12th February, 2023 2 min read

Ten years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons

Two men dancing.

Today (05/02/2023) marks ten years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed its second reading in the UK House of Commons. The bill passed through the Commons by 400 votes to 175 and paved the way for same-sex marriage to become legal in the UK for the first time.

Prejudice against homosexuality in Britain dates back to the introduction of Christianity by the Roman Empire in the sixth century CE. In this period, homosexuality was considered “sinful” but not illegal. Sexual activity between men became illegal in Britain in 1533 with the Buggery Act. Over the following centuries, discrimination against homosexuality became deeply ingrained in British society and was used to build an oppressive patriarchal structure.

In the mid-twentieth century, with the general liberalisation of attitudes in society and the declining power of organised religion, there began to be some pushback against the criminalisation and stigmatisation of homosexuality in the UK. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 maintained prohibitions on  sex between men but, in England and Wales, it decriminalised limited sexual activity in private between two consenting men over the age of twenty-one

The grassroots movement for gay rights gathered steam in the 1970s. The gay liberation movement sought to mobilise supporters of what we would now call the  LGBTQ+ community in countering anti-gay sentiment in society through publicly “coming out” and direct action against homophobic groups and institutions. The hard-fought wins of those in this movement generally softened the attitude of society towards the LGBTQ+ community and helped build a political culture in which same-sex relationships could be legally recognised.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was the first legal recognition of same-sex relationships. It was not until nine years later that homosexuals were allowed to partake in the traditionally religious institution of marriage.

The legalisation of gay marriage is seen as an important milestone in overcoming discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. Although a significant victory for the movement, the struggle against all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community still continues today.

Authored by Sean Waite

Sean Waite

Sean Waite is a Political Science graduate of Birmingham and Aarhus University.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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