Article Title:Marriage Equality: accelerating momentum
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Politics and religion commentator Craig Young
Published on:18th June 2012 - 10:26 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:11889
Text:Today's front page of France's Libération. The headline reads: 'Gay Marriage: They Say Yes!' Denmark, France, Scotland...suddenly, there is now international momentum building behind the cause of same-sex marriage. How long will John Key continue to prevaricate over the issue and what might be in store for us? Over the course of the last month, there has been increased international support for same-sex marriage equality within Western Europe. First, Denmark's centre-left led Social Democrats and their allies legislated for passage of same-sex marriage. Denmark was the first nation to pass civil union/registered partnership legislation back in 1989, and moved to implement inclusive adoption reform under the previous centre-right government there in 2009. However, social democratic parties and centre-right social liberals have voted for reform before on the issue, losing narrowly one first time (57-52) while in opposition. After the centre-left won the last Danish general election, it moved quickly to introduce marriage equality legislation. These were voted on and won an impressive majority in the Danish Parliament (85-24), with most opposition coming from the Danish People's Party, which bears an uncanny resemblance to New Zealand First. Under the new legislation, church weddings will be available to lesbian and gay couples, although Danish Lutheran ministers can choose whether or not they want to adjudicate over such ceremonies. The tiny "Christian Democrat" fundamentalist party is not represented in Parliament and are acting like sore losers over the issue, threatening to take the government to constitutional court over 'religious freedom' objections to the new legislation. As for France, their National Assembly has also voted before to introduce same-sex marriage, under the previous Sarkozy administration, when the centre-right UMP still dominated that parliamentary lower house. However, that didn't stop rebellious Socialist and Green mayors from conducting civil ceremonies. As with Denmark's Social Democrats and their allies, the centre-left (and liberal centre-right MNAs) lost that first vote (293-222). However, with Francois Hollande's presidential victory last month and now a Socialist majority in the National Assembly, estimated at 320 seats out of 577, it seems likely that the new French Socialist government will move quickly to secure marriage equality as well. At 212-234 seats only the centre-right UMP appears to have been decimated by Maxine Le Pen's anti-immigrant, anti-globalisation and neofascist French National Front, which also opposes reform, but only won a single National Assembly seat. Neither will be in any electoral shape to effectively oppose marriage equality, promised by new French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault earlier this month. In Scotland, their devolved Scottish Parliament is dominated by the Scottish National Party, with Labour in opposition. In any case, most MSPs support reform and are pledged to support any same-sex marriage bill introduced within their regional parliament, according to Scotland's Equality Network. When that happens, Scotland will have beaten England and Wales to the recognition of same-sex marriage proper, increasing the pressure on David Cameron and his Conservative/Liberal Democrat government to legislate for the introduction of same-sex marriage south of the border. Unfortunately, backward fundamentalist Northern Ireland will not be obliged to follow suit, unless possibly through a European Court of Human Rights decision against them. What does this mean for us? If David Cameron is willing to act, questions should asked about why John Key is only willing to give conditional support to legislating for same-sex marriage (although one suspects that centre-right social liberals are urging him to follow Cameron's lead over that issue within his party). As for the centre-left, expectations are growing that Labour and the Greens will legislate for same-sex marriage too, much as has been the case in France and Denmark. It doesn't seem to have been a liability to their election in either case. We will need to shore up our existing lobbying efforts into a coherent, donor-based organisation and be prepared for the long haul. This may well mean turning same-sex marriage equality into an election issue. In the interim period, we need to attack the credibility of the Conservative Party's binding referenda proposals on that issue and actively take on Family First on marriage equality and adoption reform. Recommended: Jurist: “French PM says same sex marriage and adoption laws will be introduced” 01.06.2012: http://jurist.org/paperchase/2012/06/france-pm-says-same-sex-marriage-and-adoption-laws-will-be-introduced.php “Hollande party wins parliamentary majority” BBC News: 17.06.2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18471239 "Gay marriage legalised" Copenhagen Post: 07.06.2012: http://www.cphpost.dk/news/national/gay-marriage-legalised "Charity claims that majority of MSPs support same-sex marriage" BBC News: 10.06.2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-18386792 Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 18th June 2012    
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