There are people who would tell you that I’m too prone to taking things personally, and never moreso than when it comes to my politics. It’s true. I’m not ashamed of it.
Cut off my friends’ disability services? Personal. Saddle a generation of working class students with crippling debt? Personal. Legislate against what decisions I’m allowed to make about my own body? Personal. Launch a vendetta against working women? Personal. Try to cut up my NHS and sell it off for loose change? Personal.
Tell me that I shouldn’t be allowed to get married? Personal.
And for reasons beyond the obvious.
Let me tell you a story about the equal marriage campaign.
On a wet Monday evening in the early spring of 2009, a guy called Nick Henderson came from the Equality Network to talk to the St Mary’s LGBT Group. He wanted to talk to us about a petition that he was putting together to present to the Scottish Parliament asking them to consult on the possibility of same-sex marriage legislation. At the end of that meeting, a number of us had agreed to start collecting signatures, and that was what I ended up doing during the Easter term of my third year of medical school. I would dash away at the end of a lecture or a clinical skills session to meet up with some other cathedral people outside the library or in the university cafeteria, and we would spend our respective lunch hours with clipboards and biros.
A few months and a lot of signatures after that, with the same sort of work having been done by groups of people around Scotland, I went to Edinburgh, to the petitions committee at Holyrood to watch them consider this petition that we had put forward. As we waited for the afternoon session to start, I had coffee with Tim Hopkins, also from the Equality Network, and we talked about the public launch of the campaign that would need to happen if the petition was accepted. Most likely at Pride, which was coming up in a matter of a few weeks. Tim mused on how good it would be if he could get a member of the clergy to speak at the launch. I know a priest who I think would probably do it, I said.
(A word to the wise: If you ever volunteer your priest to speak at Pride, don’t forget to tell him or her that you’ve done it.)
So it was that I found myself back in Edinburgh, in the rain, for Pride (it isn’t Pride if it’s not raining) with a ragtag bunch of Scottish Episcopalians, standing underneath an open-top bus that was fitted up with a sound system that didn’t work, listening to Kelvin shout about the white knot and marriage equality. A thing that he has continued to shout about for the last five years.
And that was where it started.
And when it did start, equal marriage wasn’t something that was on the international radar in the way that it is now. Only six countries had passed laws that allowed same-sex marriage. It wasn’t even a blip on the political landscape in Westminster, where in less than two months the first marriages between same-sex couples will actually take place. Just five years later, tomorrow, Scotland will become the seventeenth country to pass such a law. For five years, LGBT Scotland and the Equality Network have run an extraordinary campaign and I hope that sometime in the next 24 hours we will all learn that that campaign has achieved something wonderful. It has been an honour to play a very small part in what I truly believe will turn out to have been an enormous piece of the history of the civil rights movement of this century.
This is personal to me.
It’s personal because of the work that I’ve done and the work that my friends have done. It’s personal because of a campaign that I’ve considered myself part of since it was a thought of an idea. It’s personal because it’s who I am. The story doesn’t end with this. There are battles still to be fought and won. But on Wednesday morning I might wake up in a country where I can get married, and it doesn’t get more personal than that.