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Gay Times October 10 - Issue 385

Is Britain ready for gay marriage?

As Proposition 8 faces potential collapse in California, countries around the world are legalising same-sex unions. Here, for better or worse, Peter Lloyd and Helen Stuart ask whether the UK is ready for gay wedded bliss

Eleven countries around the world boast comprehensive gay marriage rights, including Canada, Belgium and Iceland – but Britain isn’t one of them.
As the US state of California fights Proposition 8, their ban on same-sex marriage, in the courts it’s becoming a hotter issue here too. The UK’s Liberal Democrat party are preparing to vote on same-sex unions at their annual conference in Liverpool, Labour is starting to rally to the cause and even the Conservatives have hinted at support.
But does this prospect of marriage equality coincide with a change in public attitudes, or are we still happy to consider civil partnerships enough?
In a recent poll on leading gay news site, readers were asked their view on the issue – and the results were dramatic.An overwhelming 87% claimed that excluding gay people from marriage is a form of sexual apartheid, while just 13% think civil partnerships are a sufficient substitute.
And they’re not alone. Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called the ban on same-sex marriage “discriminatory and anti-democratic”, citing a Populus Poll carried out on behalf of the Times newspaper in June of last year, which found that 61% of those surveyed believed that “gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships”.
Writing for The Times, Tatchell said: “The homophobia of the ban on same-sex civil marriage is now compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships. Just as queers cannot have a civil marriage, straight couples are prohibited from having a civil partnership. These twin discriminations reinforce and extend inequality.
“Imagine the outcry if the government reserved marriage for white people and introduced a separate partnership register for black couples. It would provoke accusations of racism and apartheid – and international condemnation.
“Let’s face it, marriage is the gold standard. Civil partnerships are marriage lite for queers. They are second best. No thanks. Even though I am no fan of wedlock and would not want to get married myself, I defend the right of other same-sex couples to make that choice, if they wish. We should all be equal under the law.”
But Britain’s newly-relaxed attitude to gay marriage is not just domestic – a recent YouGov poll found that many support US federal judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to overturn California’s Proposition 8. And here the political landscape is changing too
Twenty years ago the country was in the grip of Section 28 and the Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher. Europe, like America, was battling the (then new) AIDS epidemic. Gay marriage was not at the top of our priorities. Nor was it the time, or climate, to propose it.
But in two decades, that necessary change has happened. Now, PM David Cameron actively supports the option of civil partnerships in religious buildings. He is flanked by Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM, Nick Clegg, who vocally supports full, gay marriage. That’s not all – both the Labour and the Conservative party have LGBT groups (who’d a thought it?), civil partnerships have been in place for several years and all five of Labour’s leader contenders – David Milliband, Ed Milliband, Ed Balls, Dianne Abbott and Andy Burnham – support gay marriage. At least politically, we are stronger than ever.

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