This week after a six-hour debate, the British Parliament's House of Commons voted overwhelmingly voted for a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom, with the bill now awaiting a vote in the House of Lords before becoming law. In the Rewrite segment last night on MSNBC's The Last Word, host Lawrence O'Donnell covered the historic vote, noting Oscar Wilde's trial 118 years ago, in which he was found guilty of 25 acts of "gross indecency" with other men and sentenced him to two years in jail. When asked by the court what is "the love that dare not speak its name," Wilde retorted with a long defense, saying "'The love that dare not speak its name' in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man."
The highlight of this past week's debate on same-sex marriage was Labour MP David Lammy's impassioned speech comparing the "separate but equal" argument of civil unions to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Speaking to the House, Lammy said, "'Separate but equal' is the motif that determined that black and white people could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table, or use the same toilets. It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists."
O'Donnell's wrap-up was equally eloquent when he referenced a passage that Wilde wrote while imprisoned: "Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed." O'Donnell's last words on The Last Word
were, "Tonight in England, Oscar Wilde would not have to hide in clefts in the rocks and would not have to weep in secret valleys."