England’s first same-sex marriages took place this weekend.
To mark the first day of same-sex marriage, Sandi Toksvig OBE and her partner Debbie renewed their wedding vows in a public celebration at Lambeth’s Southbank Centre on Saturday.
As the rainbow flag flew above Westminster, the Toksvigs were joined on stage by family and friends in an emotional ceremony in front of over 2,000 people at the Royal Festival Hall.
The sing-along event, I do to Equal Marriage also featured London’s Gay Men’s Chorus, LGBT’s Fourth Choir, singer and actress Sharon D. Clarke and Rick Wakeman on the organ.
The audience cheered and clapped as the couple, who have been in a civil partnership for seven years, lifted their held hands in triumph following their vows, with some shedding a few tears.
In her speech, the BBC Radio 4 presenter said: “There was many a time, when I thought this day would never come.”
The comedian spoke about her experiences, when in 1994 she came out as the only openly gay woman in British public life.
“For a long while in every interview I gave or every review that I received I did feel like the only lesbian in town. It felt unbelievably lonely,” she said.
She poked fun at homophobic attitudes but grew serious when speaking about the vilification by the press and the death threats that made her family go into hiding, describing it as ‘a very frightening time’.
The couple’s children took part in the ceremony, with Sandi’s eldest daughter giving her away and Debbie’s young daughter Mary, reading a poem along with actress Sheila Hancock who read Maya Angelou’s poem, Touched by an Angel.
Mrs Toksvig’s teenage son, Theo Toksvig-Stewart, read out the vows and gave a speech urging people to have courage and be true to themselves, “Today is a day to feel safe,” he said. “There can be nothing wrong about love.”
Same-sex marriage became law in England and Wales on 17July 2013, with couples able to register earlier this month. Couples in civil partnerships will be able to convert by the end of the year.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, said: “On our stages and in our art galleries we have had hundreds of years of the cannon of artists, who secretly or freely expressed the idea of same-sex love.
“Today we acknowledge all those artists.”
Stonewall’s Head of Policy, James Taylor, who was campaigning at the event with the gay-rights charity, said: “It was amazing, it was really, really powerful.
“I think to have two thousand people here to celebrate something they never thought would happen, is hugely powerful.”
Photo courtesy of stan_was, with thanks.
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