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To love and to hold, no matter the gender

Gay newlyweds walk on a giant rainbow flag at a pro same-sex marriage party after registering their marriage in Taipei, Taiwan May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Last Saturday I went to what was my first same-sex wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony at the Alameda Open Air Theatre – made all the more beautiful by the fact the love between two people - in this case a man and another man - could be celebrated openly (and legally).

Love wins.

Everyone attending was of course family and friends and fully accepting of the relationship. As we all rose to our feet in applause during the ceremony there wasn’t a single person who failed to be moved by it – some openly crying, others holding back a tear.

Groom and groom paused to contain their emotion delivering a reading about love (to a background of the song 'This Is Me' from the movie The Greatest Showman).

We all paused and felt that emotion with them.

Because Christian and Samuel were not just a gay couple getting married – they were our friends tying the knot. The love, and particularly the obstacles, they’ve had to overcome to get to this moment were evident for all to see.

Suddenly the debate on gay marriage had moved from statistics and arguments about the pros and cons to real people in front of us. A couple with hopes.

A couple with feelings. A couple with so much love to give. If they have chosen each other to love (and annoy) who is anyone else to say they can’t?

Gibraltar has come a long way but there is still work to do if we want a totally tolerant and inclusive LGBTQ+ community.

I was shocked to read recently in an opinion piece by Ivan Hernandez, in this same newspaper, that not all registrars will marry gay couples and that in Gibraltar they can actually refuse to marry them.

This needs to change with immediate effect. A registrar is a public servant. If they are not prepared to officiate a same-sex marriage then they cannot hold that post – their views (whether we agree with them or otherwise) cannot interfere in the execution of their duty.

It’s a matter of legal standing and not personal or religious views. If you put conditions for same-sex couples that you don’t have for heterosexuals it’s discrimination.

It’s homophobia.

Luckily for Christian and Samuel their wedding could not have had a more lovely registrar. Amy Rodriguez conducted the ceremony beautifully and elegantly and guiding the couple through it with respect.

Recently, I was covering an interesting appeal against a ruling by an employment tribunal in London which I would like to share with you.

It’s that of Richard Page. A Christian magistrate appealing against a decision to remove him from the judiciary and as director of an NHS trust for expressing his belief that it is “in a child’s best interest to have a mother and a father.”

Mr Page, who had been a magistrate of some 15 years’ experience was one of three justices considering an adoption case in 2014.

During a closed-door discussion with his two colleagues, Mr Page said it was in the best interests of the child to be raised by “a mother and a father” rather than a same-sex couple.

He was also blocked from returning to his position as a non-executive director of an NHS Trust for having said the same thing on a BBC Radio 4 documentary on Christians being squeezed out of public life.

He has lost both his appeals. What’s interesting is he wasn’t removed from his posts because of how his beliefs “but the fact he expressed his belief.”

In the case of his position with the NHS Trust Mr Justice Choudhury upheld the finding that, as a fact, LGBT people suffer disproportionately from mental illness and might be dissuaded from using the trust's services because of the high profile coverage of Mr Page's beliefs.

I know many of you reading this column this week may actually even agree with him. It opens an interesting debate about freedom of speech doesn’t it?

I met Mr Page at the hearing. He is a very pleasant man. A gentleman in fact. He told me he was “deeply disappointed that the court has ruled that saying that a child will do better with a mother and a father is proper grounds for dismissal as a magistrate and as a director of an NHS trust.”

He added: "This shows we are now living in a deeply intolerant society which cannot stand any dissent from politically correct views – even from judges. I hope that we can appeal this decision and restore freedom of speech across the country."

Part of me actually felt sorry for him. He was standing up for what he strongly believes in. But, it’s a reminder that freedom of speech comes with consequences.

What the legal system has done here is back two decisions to remove him from posts because his public comments conflict with what’s legally acceptable in today’s community.

People in public office can have their views, of course they can, but those cannot be ones which perceive them to exercise their jobs in any discriminatory way.

Back to the marriage registrars – it’s legal to marry in Gibraltar, it’s legal for same-sex couples to adopt in Gibraltar.

You can agree or disagree, but that’s the legal position. Therefore any views to the contrary cannot be an obstacle for same-sex couples to enjoy their right to do so.

And, in future the term will simply be ‘marriage’ – the same description for everyone.

Speeches at Christian and Samuel’s wedding evening reception clearly confirmed the positive impact Christian’s work has had on inspiring young musicians and local artists to pursue their dreams. He has been instrumental in developing talent and contributed widely to the arts locally.

That’s what people highlighted, in a true spirit of friendship.

There was no mention of sexual orientation in those speeches – because it doesn’t matter. It’s time to leave that aspect out of it all.

Those speaking were inspired by the person. The world is a much better place with good teachers, good parents and good people. That’s what really matters.

Pic REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

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