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It’s been a big couple of months for advocates of marriage equality – small advances being made in many parts of the world but with big milestones in the public vote in the Republic of Ireland, and the Supreme Court ruling in the US.
It’s a topic that obviously carries a lot of emotions on both sides, but in most western countries the tides of change seem to be turning in favour in making the concept of marriage available to everyone – regardless of sexuality.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a rush of gay weddings. Not every gay guy wants to get married. Lots of gay guys struggle to sustain any kind of meaningful relationship. People will get married and then regret it – there will probably be the same proportion of gay divorces as there are straight divorces.
What’s interesting is the shift in language and attitude that we’re seeing as part of the marriage equality evolution.
As always, it was President Obama who said it most eloquently and most powerfully. He celebrated the decision of the Supreme Court and recognised that it was the result of: “…the countless small acts of courage of millions of people across decades who stood up, who came out, who talked to parents – parents who loved their children no matter what. Folks who were willing to endure bullying and taunts, and stayed strong, and came to believe in themselves and who they were, and slowly made an entire country realize that love is love.”
To have the US President celebrating marriage equality and declaring that “love is love” is a pretty big deal. It’s a pretty big deal for everyone, but imagine if you’re a young gay kid, feeling a bit isolated, struggling to figure out your sexuality. The US President just told the world that it’s okay to be gay, and that your relationships, emotions, and heartbreaks are just as valid as anyone else’s.
So what’s that got to do with sports?
We know that there’s not many openly gay sportspeople at the elite level. There seems to be two main reasons for that – elite sportspeople that are gay seem to be reluctant to be open about their sexuality; and young gay athletes seem to opt out of sports participation before reaching elite levels.
Marriage equality, and the inclusive language we are hearing from world leaders as part of that process, has to mean that we will see better performances from gay athletes at the elite level (who can confidently be themselves and focus on their sport instead of concealing their sexuality); and that we will see more gay athletes reaching their full potential and not feeling like being gay is some kind of barrier to success.
If you love sport then you want to see the best. Marriage equality is one of the small steps required in order to get there.
Written by Gareth Johnson
Follow Gareth on Twitter @GTV_Champion
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