On the 29th March 2014, the first same-sex marriages will take place across England and Wales. The legalisation of gay marriage will be seen as a landmark event in the history of Britain, and comes with widespread support from the public and lawmakers alike.
At this stage, we can’t be quite certain of exactly what changes will take place across British society when the first ceremonies finally take place. We can however make some speculative predictions as to what exactly will change, beginning from next month.
Anti-gay marriage campaigners are right when they say that the meaning of the word ‘marriage’ itself will be redefined. Children will grow up without any concept of marriage as solely between a man and a woman – they will always recognise the institution as being an inclusive one.
Gay rights and causes in general are taking an enormous step – the charity Stonewall notes that with the marriage law, the final distinction under the law between heterosexual and homosexual Britons is removed. With the same-sex marriage law coming into effect, straight and gay individuals are recognised just the same. And consequently we can expect gradual wider acceptance of people of all sexualities, in what can still be a remarkably homophobic society.
It may turn out that the legalisation of same-sex marriage is the shot in the arm that marriage as an institution requires. Marriages have been declining for years, as traditional beliefs regarding family and commitment tend to be phased out. Despite this, the topics of lifelong commitment and stable families have been so widely discussed in newspapers and the public sphere in general since the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage began in 2012. The renewed interest in marriage may be strictly a short-term phenomenon, but may prompt a number of heterosexual couples to tie the knot in the meantime.
Those in the wedding industry can look forward to a boost in their business when the option to marry is opened up to the roughly 1 in 100 of the population who are gay, and many more who are bisexual with same-sex partners.
And, although it is hardly something they would relish, family law firms can expect an increase in their business – as with more marriages will come more divorces and disputes. Legal services relating to marriage and divorce would become more sought-after, such as pre-nuptial agreements and custody agreements.
Most importantly, for generations to come, couples will have the opportunity to express their love and commitment to the world, and receive all of the benefits that married couples have always enjoyed.