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Peter Tatchell

Import: The History of Marriage in the UK

By Creativity, Gay, JournalismNo Comments

In this article we look at the history of marriage in the UK. Our history starts at 410AD, as before this time there were no written records of the history of marriage. Before written records, history was past down orally from the older generation to the younger one, unfortunately over time this oral history has been lost.

410AD – The Anglo-Saxons and Other Tribal Groups
For many people marriage is strongly associated with religion, but this wasn’t always the case. Straight marriages at this time were about peace and prosperity rather than religion. Marriages encouraged good diplomatic relations and the development of trade between two (or more) tribal groups.

It was the fathers who decided who their daughters married and the wishes of the couple were seen as irrelevant.


(Image Credit: Andrew Brooks @ Flickr)

12th Century – Consent
In 1140 Decretum Grantiani wrote a canon textbook were he introduced the concept of verbal consent to straight marriage and the requirement for a couple to consummate their union to validate their marriage.

In the 12th century the Roman Catholic Church made verbal consent and consummation necessary for the church to view the straight marriage as legitimate. Some Roman Catholic writers at the time also describe marriage as a spiritual experience tied to God’s presence. While this is not surprising, prior to this very little mention of marriage as a spiritual experience.


(Image Credit: Stuart Wrightson @ Flickr)

1549 – The Vows
The tradition of vows came from Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. Although the book was updated later on, many of Thomas Cranmer’s words are still used in religious ceremonies today.

These vows laid the foundation for how the Roman Catholic & Protestant churches viewed straight marriage at the time as: a partnership.

Thomas Cranmer must have reflected the views of the mainstream population about marriage at the time; otherwise it would have been unlikely that the church institutions would have accepted and taken on these views.

Roman Catholic Priests at this time were still delivering marriage ceremonies (as all other religious services) in Latin.

However, the Protestant’s began delivering their services in the English language. This is significant as English was the common language and this change made marriage ceremonies (as well as all other religious services) accessible to all.

Today, Protestantism is one the most popular religions practiced in the UK. Many historians believe that changing the ceremonies to English played a huge part in making Protestantism a dominant religion.

1563 – Sacramental Marriage
The Roman Catholic Church officially declared that straight marriage was one of the seven sacraments in this year; meaning that it was something undertaken in the presence of god. The other sacraments are: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Ordination and Last Rites.

The Protestant Church didn’t see straight marriage as a sacrament at this time.

1753 – State Involvement
The Clandestine Marriage Act (1753) set out what the state expected in order for a straight marriage to be seen as legal. It required the couple to get married in a church by a minister and issue a formal marriage announcement or to obtain a marriage license.

1836 – Civil Marriages
In 1836 it became legal for straight couples to get civil marriages, which were generally held in Register Offices. This was to accommodate both the religious and nonreligious.

For the religious it meant that they could get married in a neutral place, if for some reason they couldn’t get married in their church. For the nonreligious it gave them a place void of religion. Prior to this, nonreligious straight couples had to go through a ceremony in a church and undertake practices & traditions that they didn’t believe in.

In 1837 the civil registration of straight marriages started.

1837 – It’s All About Straight Love
Between 1837-1901 it was the Victorian Era. It is said by contemporary historians that the Victorian Era is when marriage became about love, but still only the love between a man and a women. Gay people weren’t treated well in the Victorian Era in the UK, with laws against sexual acts.


(Image Credit: Nik Mortimer @ Flickr)

Oscar Wilde – widely regarded as one of the most talented writers of all time; was accused of sodomy by the father of his male lover. He lost the trial and was sent to prison. It was rumored that he could have escaped to France, but he didn’t. Once he’d served his sentence, he moved to France.

Left: Oscar Wilde’s grave in France, covered in Graffiti by gay people from across the world.


(Image Credit: melbelleinsc @ Flickr)

1858 – Divorce
Between the 17th – 19th Centuries there were 300 cases of people wanting to end their marriages. The only way to do this was for an Act of Parliament for each marriage, as there was no accommodation for divorce in marriage law. So in 1858 the government of the time finally made divorce a legal process.

The legal process that meant those who wanted or needed a divorce could have one. But it also signified a shift in the focus of marriage from being a lifetime commitment – for better or worse, to a commitment that could be changed if life’s circumstances changed.

19th Century – Birth Control
By the 19th Century, both the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church’s had promoted procreation as the main reason for straight marriage. But as more children survived childhood, families got bigger and there was a need to use some form of contraception.

In the 1930s the Protestant Church accepted contraception, viewing it as necessary and not a sin or something God would be unhappy with. But the Roman Catholic Church has remained against any form of contraception, as they continue to see the procreation of children as a fundamental aspect of straight marriage.


(Image Credit: Viviana Hurtado @ Flickr)

2005 – Civil Partnerships
In 2005 the first gay civil partnerships took place, a year after The Civil Partnership Act came into law.

It allowed gay people to have legally recognised relationships, which granted them the same rights, protections and benefits of a married straight couple. This included legal rights, such as being one another’s Next of Kin; rights related to their partner’s children and the benefits including those of taxation reductions.

In terms of the actual act, the gay couple could have a civil partnership ceremony that could consist of anything they wanted (within the law). This could be vows, the exchange of rings, their choice in music, etc.

The Civil Partnership Act included a legal process for those gay people who may want to end their civil partnership. It is called ‘dissolution’ and works on similar legal principles to divorce.

This was the first time that the state in the UK legally recognised gay relationships. In the first five there were 42,778 gay civil partnerships.

Peter Tatchell (Gay Rights Activist) as well as others criticised The Civil Partnership Act, saying that it wasn’t complete equality as it excluded straight people from being able to be civil partners.


(Image Credit: Gary Dunne @ Flickr)

2013 – Gay Marriage
This year The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act has been passed in England and Wales. The first gay marriages are expected in March 2014.

Stonewall said of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act:

‘This is an historic moment for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, their families and their friends. This Act will mean that, for the first time, children growing up to be gay in England and Wales will have full equality in law. We can now proudly claim to be a beacon to the world for gay equality.’

In ancient history marriage had nothing to do with religion, but helped tribes to live and thrive together. Then Christian institutions (both Roman Catholic & Protestant Churches) influenced the definition and meaning of marriage. In the last century the state has got involved for marriage, allowing marriage to be more flexible and much more inclusive.

Marriage as a concept has evolved to meet the needs and desires of society. Currently there is some debate as to what role the churches and state play within marriage. It is likely that over the next century the Churches will continue to reside over the spiritual aspect of marriage, whereas the state will continue to be involved with the legal and administrative side of marriage.

Antony Simpson, Writer of this article would like to acknowledge the following sources that supported putting together this article based on fact:

BBC – Ten key moments in the history of marriage

Office for National Statistics – Civil Partnerships Five Years On…rd/…/ard-pt145-civil-partnerships.pdf‎

Office for National Statistics – Video Summary: What does the Census tell us about religion in 2011?

Peter Tatchell – A setback for equality

Stonewall – Equal Marriage to become law – Thank You!

Stonewall – Get Hitched! A Guide to Civil Partnership

Published by: The Gay UK Feb/March 2014 Magazine (priced £1.49)


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The Independant on Sunday Pink List 2010, my thoughts

By Gay, Thinking2 Comments

The Independent on Sunday do a yearly ‘Pink List’. For those of you who don’t know, a Pink List is the most influential gay people of the year. I won’t mention the fact that there’s still a quarter of the year to go, I wont. You can read their Pink List here:

As I go down the list giving my thoughts please expect some people to be completely omitted because
I have no idea who they are. Sorry but your just not famous enough to have attracted me attention, yet. No hard feelings, eh?

The Independent on Sunday ‘Pink List’ 2010

1. Gareth Thomas the rugby player absolutely deserves at number one this year. The rugby world along with other sporting worlds remain homophobic and the way gay people have changed attitudes in this country is by coming out to their friends and family. We just need someone from the football world to come out now, my bets on Cristiano Ronaldo.

3. Stephen Fry the broadcaster and writer speaks up for gay rights more than most of the public realise. Recently the media have picked up about his recent relationship breakdown and his new partner aged 26. Come on, like at fifty some-thing if you could get a 26 year old you wouldn’t? Leave the man alone. He will always have my respects, unless of course he did something really bad – like – murder or something equally morally wrong.

6. Alan Carr the comedian known for his show Chatty Man on channel 4 is very funny. I didn’t realise that you could influence people with humor. It seems so, well done Alan. Perhaps I should give that saying about laughing people in to bed a try?

7. Peter Tatchell the human rights activist has been banging on about Marriage as apposed to Civil Partnerships and still campaigns for true equality for gay people. It seems like the job title of “Human Rights Activist” was becoming redundant with the strides forward we made with the Labour Government, but now the Conservatives are back in, you’ve got your work cut out for you Peter. Thanks for standing up for our rights.

10. Sue Perkins the comedian and writer, is she the one whose thin, tall, short hair and glasses? If so, I like her. She seems nice.

12. Scott Mills the Radio 1 DJ, I hadn’t realised was gay! Honestly, I think my gaydar needs some tweaking. Love his radio 1 show, I always listen on my way home from work in the car, it makes me smile and often laugh. Keep doing what you do Scott.

17. John Barrowman, you know I love him. Just see my various blog posts: DVD Review: An Evening with John Barrowman, A week of Torchwood, Inspirational Icons, etc. I’d of put him higher on the list, but purely because I want him, if only people where possessions. Only joking, that would be slavery and that is BAD.

34. Matt Lucas, I haven’t seen him around much since Little Brittan. Oh wait I have heard his voice in Alice and Wonderland though, I think.

36. Simon Amstell, not seen much of him. He’s boring me now on Never Mind the Buzzcocks but that’s only because repeats are constantly on Dave.

47. Derren Brown bless his cotton socks. There’s something I like about this man. I dunno what it is but there’s also plenty I don’t like: his smug attitude. Luckily this year hasn’t been like the last were I was Unable to escape from Derren Brown.

52. Lord Mandelson a Labour party peer, just creeps me out every time I look at him.

55. Matthew Todd the Editor of Attitude magazine. Now I must confess Matthew I didn’t know who you were until recently. I picked up a copy of this months Attitude entitled “The ‘Issues’ Issue” because of the feature “We’ve found the secret to being gay and happy” and I’m really enjoying reading it. Blog post coming soon, when I’ve finished the reading. Attitude has always made refreshing reading when compared to the Gay Times, but well done on a well written and well put together issue this month. Big pat on the back for Matthew!

56. Gok Wan this year has made appearances on the TV Book Club, which isn’t as book-worm-ish as it sounds. I actually like how they tell you what a book is like and then you can sus out if it’s worth buying for yourself.

64. Russell T Davies the former writer Dr. Who seems to have gone back to life behind the lime light rather than in it as I haven’t heard much from him this year. No supprise really, those writter types prefer it there.

70. Julian Clary the entertainer seems to be making a come back to our TV screens recently following on from his former boyfriend going to Austrailia (I found that out in Attitude Magazine as well, a really informative issue). He has been writing books for a while, but I think he’s a gifted entertainer as well, so welcome back Julian, you’ve been missed, well by me anyway.

76. Will Young the former winner of Pop Idol (remember that show? God, that was a life time ago or so it seems) I haven’t seen doing anything. Get in the studio and write and sing a new album out, it’s been a while now.

87. Russell Tovey the actor is simply sizzling HOT! And I really hoped he was gay, am so glad he is. Welcome to the club. Here some links to very yummy images of him:
Again someone remind me, people aren’t possessions. Slavery equals bad.

100. Joe McElderry last years winner of X Factor seemed to have made it at the bottom of the list as a last minute addition. For what? I hear you ask. For coming out as gay. What made me laugh is that he sold his story to The Sun of all news papers. I remember being in ASDA the day the paper was released picking up some bits and bats and as I started to read the unorignal headline: “Joe: I’m gay” a chav said: “Like we didn’t know.” Made me smile.

Overall a lot of the people on the list I didn’t know seemed London based, which is to be expected isn’t it? Don’t you know? London is the centre of the world. Apparently.

Blog soon,


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A Sad Truth

By Gay, ThinkingNo Comments

The sad truth is that homophobia still exists in the world today. Some people still believe that it is a heterosexual world and that being gay is wrong and worthy of a beating. For some reason it’s usually heterosexual men that are the perpetrators towards gay men. See this video:

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Now before you strug this off as American, do you remember the case of a gay teenager Michael Causer in Liverpool (a city close to were I live)? He got murdered on his way home.

Homophobia is alive in every country of the world, and we should not forget it.

Related links:
International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO)
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Peter Tatchell

With love,


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A man named Alan Turning

By Gay, History, Political, Thinking2 Comments

There was once a man named Alan Turning. He is now seen as a hero for helping to break German Enigma code in World War two. However this wasn’t always the case.

As a gay man living in these times he was convicted of homosexuality in the heterosexual world he lived in. He had a choice to under go chemical castration or go to prison. He choose to under go the chemical castration and later committed suicide.

Looking back now he is seen as a brilliant and intelligent man. Think what he could have achieved in his life, if he hadn’t cut it short as a result of British law at the time.

Gordon Brown according to Pink News apologised for his treatment after a petition signed by over thirty thousand people. There has been some debate on Gordon Brown’s apology amongst the gay community. Peter Tatchell said to Pink News:

Peter Tatchell called the apology “welcome and commendable” but said an apology was also due to the estimated 100,000 British men convicted of similar offences.

He said: “Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong. Unlike Turing, many thousands of ordinary gay and bisexual men were never given the option of hormone treatment. They were sent to prison.

“All these men were criminalised for behaviour that was not a crime between heterosexual men and women.”
(Pink News, last accessed: 12th September 09)

However Zefrog said:

And this brings the next question, that of the worth of an apology. This is not a new debate. It is a particularly heated one, for example, in the black community around the issue of slavery, where it is complicated by the question of financial reparations.

An apology is, of course, a potent symbol…
(Zefrog, Last accessed: 12th September 09)

My opinion is that Gordon Brown could of better used his time and political influence to change the laws against homosexuality that still exist in the world. There are still places in the world were gay men (and sometimes lesbian women) are hung, shot or killed in some other way because of their sexuality. Because they have relationships and or sex with the same sex. You only need to look this world map below (provided by Wikipedia) to see how far spread homophobia still is in terms of governments laws against it.

(Click on the map for full size readable version)

Blog politically again soon,

Antony x

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