One of the issues that David Cameron received fierce criticism for recently was not to do with the economy, nor the EU. Instead, it was same-sex marriage, a moral issue, a human rights issue that only affects a small minority of people, but is felt strongly by this minority and is almost always met with opposition.
Even Barack Obama in his 2013 inauguration speech advocated same-sex marriage by saying: “for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
So why is it that campaigners are fighting so hard for this, what is the real difference between marriage and civil partnerships? A civil partnership offers the same legal benefits such as child maintenance and next of kin rights, yet there remains some differences. A civil partnership does not allow those of faith to opt for a religious ceremony, as it remains an exclusively civil procedure. It also is not internationally recognised, meaning that the rights of those in a civil partnership vary in different countries, causing a possible loss of some of the legal benefits received in the UK.
Of course same-sex marriage remains a highly controversial issue, one that has already been seen to divide the opinions of the Conservative party; so what are the key arguments for those against it? Lord Singh, head of the Network of the Sikh Organisations, has said that same-sex marriage is a “sideways assault on religion,” and that it “dilutes and distorts marriage.”
For many, marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman, and so this would change the meaning marriage as a civil institution. Some do not see why the need to legalise same-sex marriage is so vital, considering civil partnerships already provide all of the legal benefits, and for them that is true equality.
Yet the notion of true equality is not something that can be wholly expressed in legal terms. One of the most important reasons for the legalisation of same-sex marriage is its moral significance. Homosexuality is still seen by some as a negative thing, something that should not be publicly exposed, censored in some cases.
When there are still those who are abandoned, bullied or even killed for their sexuality, such a law recognising that the love between two of the same gender is not something to be condemned or treated as subordinate to heterosexual love, provides a beacon of hope to those discriminated against.
MPs will be voting on same-sex marriage on 5 February, and one hopes that this will pave the way for not only legal equality, but social equality. For once the law recognises that the love between two people, regardless of gender, is something to be celebrated, then perhaps we can be as equal as we were truly created.