On Saturday March 29th the UK government finally made the Same Sex Marriage bill legal, ending years of shameful inequality for lesbians and gay men. Now, if you’re in love and want to marry your sweetheart, you can - whatever your sexuality.
To celebrate, my partner & I went to the wedding of a couple we’ve never met: Sandi and Debbie Toksvig. To mark the passing of the bill, the pair decided to renew their marriage vows at the Royal Festival Hall in front of friends, family and over 2,000 supporters, there to celebrate love and the completion of a fight that’s been ongoing for years.
And clearly, someone up above was also giving marriage equality a thumbs-up, because on Saturday morning London’s South Bank was drenched in silky golden sunshine, looking delectable and ready to play host to the wedding of the year.
We arrived 20 minutes before the ceremony was due to take place, full of expectation and no little excitement. This was history in the making after all and my heart hardly dare believe it was happening. We flashed our tickets, shook hands with the legendary Peter Tatchell and as the London Gay Men’s Chorus broke into a rendition of Get Me To The Church On Time, my giddy-o-meter ratcheted up to the max. If I was emotional, how were Sandi and Debbie feeling?
The wedding party emerged and Sandi’s daughter Megan walked her mum down the aisle as the choir sang Elbow’s One Day Like This. Never has a song been so apt. We were treated to readings from their 8-year-old daughter Mary and actress Sheila Hancock before Sandi and Debbie finally held hands, took a deep breath and renewed their vows, guided by Sandi’s son and celebrant Theo.
Sandi said before the ceremony she knew she’d get choked up but they’d be tears of joy - and who could blame her?
“I really didn’t think we’d get here in my lifetime,” she said - she’s been campaigning for such a moment for two decades. “It’s very emotional because I know what this means to people and I know those who have suffered and struggled so it’s a very big deal. People ask why did we do this but for me, the personal has always been political. Plus, after 14 years my partner and I are still crazy about each other, so why not celebrate that fact?” Sandi’s son Theo summed it up nicely when he said: “My generation are slightly perplexed by this law. Why did it take so long?”
As I watched from the jubilant crowd and felt my blood fizz with elation, I cast my mind forward to seven weeks time when my partner and I are getting married too: wedding, reception, DJ playing Abba, the works. Being a child of the 70s, just like Sandi I too never imagined this law would be passed in my lifetime. I’m still pinching myself that it’s true today, but it is and for a girl who grew up never wanting to get married, I now simply can’t wait. All we ever wanted was to be given the rights that everyone else takes for granted, and now our wish has come true.
A heartfelt thanks to Sandi and Debbie for allowing us to witness their union, for enabling us to be a part of history and join together to celebrate equality finally being granted. It was a punch-the-air moment, the happy ending we all hope for, the proof that dreams really can come true. This was truly their day, but now this is definitely our time...
Clare Lydon is a London-based writer whose debut lesbian fiction novel London Calling it out now.