Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Namechecked on Newsnight

Mary Wollstonecraft (but not, alas, Frances Blood) was mentioned yesterday on Newsnight, one of the BBC's leading current affairs programmes. Last night the House of Commons voted in favour of same-sex marriage. A lot of MPs were all, "Oh, teh churchez", and in fact the Church of England is specifically excluded in legislation, with a kinky sounding quadruple lock. BUT! Some religions want in: the Quakers, the liberal Jews, and the Unitarians. So a crew was sent to the little church that radicalised Mary. Here's Allegra Stratton's report:

Many Conservative rebels feared that religious organisations, due to have to opt in if they want to hold gay weddings, would actually feel coerced. One Unitarian church up in North London is already gung-ho.
Up here in Newington Green, historically outside the City of London, they have always made up their own rules. Mary Wollstonecraft worshipped here; so too did Tom Paine and people like Benjamin Franklin. And now, 300 years on, they'd like to be able to let gay couples marry.
David Cameron may think he's more in the mould of somebody like Wollstonecraft's rival, Edmund Burke, but in this he is a radical. David Cameron wants gay couples to be able to marry precisely because he's a Conservative, not despite being one.
As I've often said, marriage is the least queer option. I wonder if the two young schoolteachers in this special village would have chosen marriage, had it been available to them in 1785. They had more or less run away to set up a new life, living and working together, offering education to girls and a refuge to an abused wife, Mary's sister. To anyone who says marriage is an eternal institution that the state shouldn't interfere with, I have two words: marital rape. Remember how recently that was outlawed; prior to 1991, it was just part of the legal bargain, sexual access for financial support. Or for a point roughly equidistant between Mary's time and ours, the Married Woman's Property Acts (1870 and 1882), before which every penny a woman owned and every article of clothing on her back belonged to her husband. No wonder that other Famous Dead Bisexual near Mary's first grave decided to spend her life with a woman by her side and not a man. Much safer. Times change.

Who'll be the first same-sex couple to marry in Mary's church? Will they be conservatives or radicals, or both?

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