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Just over three weeks ago the first same-sex marriages were officiated in England and Wales following the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in July of last year. Throughout the campaigning and debates, Drag Idol winner
Martha D’Arthur was a vocal proponent of the bill. This week Jason Reid reflects on Martha’s involvement and the year that led to full marriage equality.


 

How did you become such a visible supporter of the same sex-marriage campaign?

I went along to the first vigil, last year, to support the cause and my friend Stuart who was singing with the Gay Men’s Chorus. I just felt that it was important to be there. I wanted to add my voice and do what I could to help. I wasn’t involved in any of the planning or organisation of events, I just spoke about it when I could, especially throughout Drag Idol and my gigs. We have people like Lord Ali, Peter Tatchell, Ed Fordham and Stonewall to really thank for the passing of the bill.

Why was it something that was so important to you, personally?

Section 28 was just on its way out as I was coming out to the world and the small-minded reactions of some people on the back of it made my coming out process very daunting. Thankfully, in such a short space of time, the younger generation coming up now are able to be themselves much easier than I did. For me, this particular fight for equality wasn’t about demanding the right to get married, it was about having the right to choose for ourselves, and that’s what the fight for equality is in my eyes: the right to have the same choices.

You were outside the House of Lords on the day the bill was passed. How was the reaction and how did you feel? 

It was a very emotional moment, not only at each stage of the reading of the bill, but even more so when the final bill was approved by the house. Especially since at the larger vigils we were greeted by opposing groups of protesters. That was quite hurtful in itself, to be looked in the face by these people and be told that I do not deserve the same rights and choices that they do. There is no doubt in my mind that the campaigning meant that the Lords and MPs knew that the world was watching and waiting to see what sort of example they would set.

Do you believe it’s an historic moment for the country? 

Absolutely! And in light of what we all know has been going on in Russia, Uganda, Nigeria and other states, it couldn’t have come at a better time. We can show the world that we are a progressive country, that we are moving in the right direction, free from any sort of oppression and that the LGBT community are no less a part of our society than anyone else. For the first time in the history of our nation, same-sex couples are afforded the same rights, privileges and choices in the eyes of the law as heterosexual couples. It’s a huge thing.

“That’s what the fight for equality is in my eyes: the right to have the same choices.”

How well do you think the mainstream media covered it all? 

We’re always going to think the coverage was a little weak because it was such a personal issue for us, but on the whole I think the media have dealt with it from a level headed and objective point of view. Anything sensationalist or with an excitable tone will only provoke those few that are still against it. The best way to deal with it as news was to be matter of fact about it all, which is what I think they have done.

What would you say to those who oppose the bill?

I would say that giving us the choice of whether we want to get married or not does not rob anyone else of their choices, so where on earth is the harm?

 

• Martha D’Arthur performs at the City of Quebec (12 Old Quebec Street, W1H 7AF) on Sunday 13th April. 

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