• Patricia Bentley

Gay Marriage in the year 1391? - Yes, really!

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Gay weddings - I love ‘em, me.

Girls, boys, I love conducting them all.

How far have we come?  Same sex weddings are legal, frequent, authentic, fun and accepted.

There’s loads more still to do to gain acceptance.  Of course there is.  But we are a country that twenty years after the end of the second world war, when we were fighting to end injustices, still had homosexuality on the statute books as an illegal act.

I thought about all of this recently when I came across a dissertation I wrote as an adult student.

I was a registrar when the Civil Partnership Act, allowing same sex couples in the United Kingdom to legalise their union, was passed on 18th November 2004.  The first UK ceremonies took place in December 2005.

Discussions in the press centred on two fathers giving away two brides, the all important “you may now kiss the bride”  for two males and of course, how the couples would be announced out at the end of the ceremony.

I looked at the Daily Mail’s reporting of the occasion.  Expecting, I suppose, colourful and critical writing, I read   “yesterday was a celebration of the live and let-live tolerance that marks our society, a signal moment in our social history and the righting of a long injustice. We wish all those couples good fortune”.

Now look at the Sunday Pictorial in 1952 “… unnatural sex vice which is getting a dangerous grip on the country…..A number of doctors believe that the problem would be best solved by making homosexuality legal between consenting adults.  This solution would be quite intolerable-and ineffective.  Because the chief danger of the perverts is the corrupting influence they have on youth……… simple decent folk regard them as freaks and rarities…If homosexuality were tolerated here, Britain would rapidly become decadent”.

I am just leaving this here.  Back in the 14th century Bill and John declared their relationship openly.  The Westminster Chronicle in October 1391 recorded that following the death of Sir John Clanvowe, “for whom his love was no less than for himself”, Sir William Neville starved himself to death(two knights of the royal chamber of Richard 11).   Their coats of arms were identical, half Neville, half Clanvowe, a blend called “impalement”, normally used to represent the arms of a married couple. It may, of course have been one rule for aristocrats; hanging for the common man, but it’s in the Westminster Chronicle and it was accepted long before it became a felony in the UK.

How fortunate are we to live in a time when gay marriage is not just accepted.  It is celebrated.  Lucky us.

Patricia Bentley

Independent Celebrant

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