England and Wales to maybe get Gay Marriage in 2015, Minister says
The UK’s LGBTQ blog par excellence, PinkNews reported that conservative Prime Minister David Cameron personally intervened to ensure that same-sex marriage be legalized while he was in office. All major UK parties support the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples, and a 2009 poll indicated that up to 61% of the English and Welsh population supports it too. So, some wonder, why the 4-year plan?
One sticking point in the Cameron government’s position is that the current laws prohibit civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, while concurrently forbidding homo couples from tying the knot.
“It is perplexing that the minister for equality wants to maintain the discriminatory laws that prohibit gay couples from having a religious marriage and heterosexual couples from having a civil partnership. She sounds more like the minister for inequality,” quipped preeminent LGBT activist Peter Tatchell.
France and the Netherlands have an equivalent to civil partnerships, respectively PACS and registered partnerships. They are open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. “The vast majority of civil partnerships in these countries are heterosexual ones. They are hugely popular there and would be equally popular here, if the government allowed straight couples to have them. To deny British heterosexuals the option of a civil partnership is profoundly unjust,” Tatchell wrote in an open letter today.
“The consultation on gay marriage was supposed to begin in June this year. There is no excuse for postponing it until March next year. Why can’t it start now? In fact, why do we need any consultation at all? The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should be repealed immediately,” said Tatchell with his typical bite.
“No other government legislation is being subjected to such prolonged consultation. The Scottish government’s consultation on marriage equality began earlier this month. Why is the UK government dragging its feet?” Tatchell asked non-rhetorically. Currently, Scottish law-makers are looking at going a step further in also forbidding religious organization from refusing to perform same-sex weddings. Up in Scotland, consultations on the legal change have already begun, years after many European nations have made the shift.
Tatchell and other UK and international observers have chimed in on the announcement, and the verdict is bitter. Most believe that the Cameron government’s return to consultation on the issue is a way to procrastinate on making the permanent legal change that millions view as a basic right. The right-wing religious minority in England is smaller than it is in North America, but recently any topic that could ruffle the feathers of religious conservatives has become subject to greater scrutiny over supposed questions of diversity and multi-culturalism. The UK’s arch-conservative hereditary House of Lords is seen as the real impediment to swift improvement on marriage issues for LGBT people.
“Lynne Featherstone’s announcement is clearly an attempt to thwart the Equal Love –www.equallove.org.uk – legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, where four gay couples and four heterosexual couples are seeking to overturn sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law,” claims Tatchell, echoing many of the country’s more cynical activists.
“Asked if he’d support a move to full marriage, Mr Cameron wrote: “I am so glad that we now have civil partnerships. They have helped remove discrimination and have given gay people the rights that they deserve. I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I’m open to changing things further to guarantee equality.”
When Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg first announced his support for gay marriage last year, he wrote: “I support gay marriage. Love is the same, straight or gay, so the civil institution should be the same, too. All couples should be able to make that commitment to one another.” Cameron kept things a bit soberer, saying in response to a PinkNews inquiry, “I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I’m open to changing things further to guarantee equality.”
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