‘We can’t rest on our laurels’: couples on 10 years of equal marriage in England and Wales | Equal marriage

aMidnight struck, Friday night turned into Saturday morning, and Andrew Wale and Neil Allard were married. Their marriage, which took place 10 years ago and is not an unusual occurrence, was one of the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales.

Friday marks the anniversary of same-sex marriage, which for many homosexuals was the last barrier to full equality in terms of the law. At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron said the new law sent a “powerful message” about equality in the UK.

But it was a long road to equality. These rights were granted gradually, in the face of intense public hostility. For most of the 20th century, “homosexual acts” against men were illegal. In 1967, the law changed, allowing men over the age of 21 to legally have sex in private in England and Wales. It was illegal in Scotland until 1980 and in Northern Ireland until 1982.

In 1994, the age of sexual consent for gay men was lowered from 21 to 18. In 2001, the age was lowered again to 16, the same as for straight men. And in 2004 civil partnerships between same-sex couples were legalized, and ten years later England and Wales became the 16th and 17th joint country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Prime Minister David Cameron praised the milestone at the time, saying it “says a lot about the kind of country we are”.

Nick Allard (left) and Andrew Wale on their wedding day.

Ms Wale, now 59, and Ms Allard, 58, won a competition sponsored by Brighton and Hove City Council, and their wedding took place at 12am on March 29th, after their wedding took place inside the city’s Royal Pavilion. It started at 1 minute. Friday is their 10th wedding anniversary.

“It was a great day but very tiring. We went out to the Brighton Pavilion and there were hundreds of people outside. People saw it and came out to cheer us on. It was amazing. It was,” Wale said. After their marriage, the couple moved to Spain.

Wehr said that when he was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, “things were pretty bad.” “It felt like a bleak future. The language that was used against gay people was terrifying. It’s the same kind of language that we’re hearing about transgender people again now, and it’s very disturbing. ”

In 1987, 75% of the British public said homosexual behavior was “always or almost always wrong”. A year later, Margaret Thatcher introduced Article 28, which prohibited local authorities from “deliberately promoting homosexuality”. The law was considered devastating for LGBTQ+ people and remained in place in Scotland until 2000 and in England and Wales until 2003.

Mr Wale said the legalization of marriage equality had helped change the situation for the better to some extent, but homophobia still existed. In recent years, the number of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people has increased. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation have soared by 112% in the past five years, according to government data released in October last year.

“Recently, things have turned around a little bit,” Wehr said. A few months ago, Allard was verbally abused on the street after returning to the UK. “The way they were yelling at me and calling these funny slurs reminded me of the ’70s. It was kind of shocking. It still happens today,” Allard said.

“We can’t rest on our laurels and think all the work is done,” Wehr said.

Tracy Austin, 55, and Lisa Schrebel, 60, will also celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on Friday. “It was incredibly powerful to stand in front of my mother and aunts, who are in their 80s and 90s, and to publicly make a commitment to each other after more than 50 years of fighting for equality.” Revell said. .

Tracy Austin and Lisa Schrebel are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. Photo: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Both had a lot of positive feedback from their families about their relationship, but not everyone was supportive. Coming out in her later years was difficult for Austin, as she had previously been married to a man. “Some of my family thought I was finally admitting what I had been hiding all this time, but that wasn’t true at all. Others thought life was going to be really difficult and difficult. Is this a choice you want to make? It was just an internal turmoil,” she said.

Both said their mothers were incredibly supportive of their newfound love. “When I told my mom about it, I said, “Oh, I’ve met her, and she’s a woman,” and she said, “That’s fine!” and she immediately started running around the house. “I picked all the flowers from my sister’s vase in the house, wrapped them up, and said, ‘Give them to her,'” Austin said.

He said of his 10 years in Austin. “There’s 10 years and four stone between us… it feels like an eternity in terms of comfort and safety, but it’s not old.”