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International Marriage Update

Timothy Kincaid

March 4th, 2010

Several nations are competing to become the eighth to offer full civil marriage recognition to same sex couples. It is likely that at least three, possibly four, will change their laws by summer.

Portugal – The parliament has now finalized the language of the bill and around the first of the month sent it to President Cavaco Silva. Silva is a member of the PSD party and has spoken in the past in opposition to same-sex marriage recognition. It is uncertain what he will do.

Silva has four choices. He can sign the bill, send it to the Supreme Court within 8 days, or refuse to sign it and return it to Parliament within 20 days (a form of veto). Prime Minister José Sócrates has stated that he has the requisite two-thirds vote to overturn a Presidential veto.

Nepal – This Asian nation is scheduled to implement a new constitution by May 28, 2010. This new constitution is reported to have marriage equality provisions. Nepal has been capitalizing on this change in hopes of increasing tourism.

Luxembourg – This tiny duchy has had civil partnership laws since 2004. However, at the end of January, Minister of Justice François Biltgen announced that the nation would legalize civil gay marriage before Parliament’s summer break. Gay couples will not be allowed to adopt.

Iceland – This vast island with its hardy but tiny population has had registered partnerships since 1996. The current government, helmed by lesbian Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is committed to changing the law to enact marriage equality. Although no time line is currently reported, as of 18 November 2009, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights confirmed that the government was working on such an act.

This is not likely to be a highly controversial issue in Iceland. Only one lawmaker voted against the 1996 partnerships and the 2006 upgrade was passed unanimously.

Argentina – There have now been two legal same-sex marriages in that country opening up a precedent, if not exactly law. However, the current governmental leadership has indicated support for marriage equality and there are bills currently under consideration. Although movement forward was scheduled for last November, but parliamentary procedures were used to delay the decision until 2010. The two judicially authorized marriages may be seen as impetus for the legislature to enact marriage as a matter of legislation rather than concede to judicial mandate.

Cyprus – The Attorney-general’s office, Law Commissioner, Ombudswoman, and senior representatives of the relevant government ministries will meet this month to discuss whether the island off the coast of Turkey and Syria will adopt marriage equality.

To make the race even more uncertain, the European Court of Human Rights heard testimony last week from an Austrian couple suing for marriage rights. On Tuesday, the court determined that Poland could not treat a gay man and his partner differently than a married couple. It is expected to announce within the next few months whether European states can deny marriage to same-sex couples or whether civil unions, such as those adopted by Austria at the first of the year, were sufficient to protect equal rights.

So we see movement in Europe, Asia, and the Americas and at the most northern and most southern parts of the globe. And, of course, we may always be surprised by an unexpected nation taking this step, as well as determinations in the European . But, whichever moves first, it will certainly be a spring to remember.

UPDATE:

Slovenia – This eastern neighbor of Italy, and former portion of communist Yugoslavia, has already begun the process of changing their laws to allow for marriage equality. Their legislature voted yesterday to advance the bill.

Comments

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Hall
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t see Cyprus as being very likely to legalize same-sex marriage anytime soon.

In addition to these, Slovenia has also approved a same-sex marriage bill on its first reading.

and also (despite the fact that is it very unlikely), there has been a growing movement for same-sex marriage in China by the gay community and a few individuals in government, as well as a proposal for same-sex unions in the province of Guangdong. If anything, the government may start to address the possibility of it.

Ben in Oakland
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

The REd Menace ahead of the US in terms of basic human rights?

depressing.

Priya Lynn
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

The U.S. has never been a leader in human rights. Canada decriminialized gayness in 1969, it took the U.S. another 34 years to do the obvious and oh how people whined about it.

Timothy Kincaid
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

Thanks, Hall.

Slovenia wasn’t even on my radar.

Fred in the UK
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

Priya, I take issue with your last post. I would say that the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights, was certainly world leading in human rights, before the term even existed.

----
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

Is funny and sad how Japan is not planning on recognizing any form of same-sex unions, considering it’s not a very religious country and it has A LOT of media about homosexuality.

Priya Lynn
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

Fred said ” I take issue with your last post. I would say that the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights, was certainly world leading in human rights, before the term even existed.”.

Uhuh. That would be the same constitution that defined blacks as 3/5ths a person. There’s a reason why the underground railroad went from the States to Canada Fred – the U.S. has never been a leader in human rights.

Fred in the UK
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

I stand by my comments. The Constitution should be viewed in the context of the time when it was written. I am unaware of much of the rest of the then ‘modern world’ banning the slavery of blacks. That the Constitution gave such revolutionary rights to such a large number of men means that it was, I believe, world leading in human rights at the time it was written. Other parts of the world, in time, overtook the United States e.g. Canada, hence the underground rail-road.

Even today, I would say, that the United States is world leading in the protection it gives to many rights of its Citizens, for example, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, etc. It does not do so well in terms of other rights, and does very poorly in terms of protecting human rights out-with its own borders.

Priya Lynn
March 4th, 2010 | LINK

Fred, when it came to eliminating slavery the U.S. came behind countries like Canada. When it came to allowing interracial marriage the U.S. came behind countries like Canada. When it came to eliminating seperate drinking fountains, lunch counters, and schools the U.S. came behind countries like Canada. When it came to eliminating laws against gayness the U.S. came behind countries like Canada. When it came to allowing equal marriage the U.S. came behind countries like Canada. Look at any major human rights development the U.S. has never been a leader. That its ahead of the Islamic world or Communist countries does not change the fact that it has never been a leader.

Fred in the UK
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Priya, please, let us consider the world as it was when the Constitution of the United States was written. Legal distinction and discrimination by race (including slavery), by gender, by sexual orientation was near universal. Similarly near universal, was the acceptance of laws that prohibited speech on certain topics, the association of certain groups of men and the observance of certain religions, simply because the ruler(s) of the state did not like them. In England there may have been an assumption that such acts were legal unless there was a specific law prohibiting them, but any such law would have been viewed as valid. Within the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) there is the idea that there freedoms and rights enjoyed by, more than a very select few men, that the neither the state nor general laws should curtail. Without that idea I do not see how it is even possible to have human rights as we know them today.

It is perfectly true that the Constitution failed to follow its own arguments to their natural and just conclusions, to take your own example, as defining some men to be only three fifths of other men. It is also true that subsequent developments in human rights occurred in other countries first, and were only later imported into the United States.

Do you claim that, at the time, any other country had this concept of rights to free speech, free association, free exercise of religion, etc. that the state, even with the support of general laws, should not curtail? Do you deny that these form part of what we now call human rights?

Mark
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

The Danish parliament now also has before it a proposal to amend the law to allow for same-sex marriage. All the major parties agree with it, and it is likely to be voted through in time to come into force in January 2011. This would also entail same-sex marriages taking place in church, as the Church of Denmark is the state church.

Paul in Canada
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Fred and Priya – I consider both arguments you make ‘correct’ – the US forged ahead with human rights in the context of a ‘new’ democracy – one which is unequaled and copied by most civilized countries – BUT – interpreting, upholding, protecting and implementing those ‘rights’ in the form of equality for all – the USA is WAY behind most – and with the religious/right-winged bigots foaming at the mouth – will continue to fall even further behind. Canada is proud of legalizing same-sex marriage and enshrining protection based on sexual orientation (2004) – but there are still pockets of discrimination – especially under our current conservative government. It is one thing to ‘institutionalize’ equality measures through legislative practice, and an entirely different thing to culturally embrace them. There is a long way to go for all of us, everywhere.

Matt
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Fred,

I find your comments fascinating in that the Abolitionist movement in England began in the 1700s and that England ended slavery before the U.S. Civil War (and also passed “reforms” limiting slavery and the slave trade which were followed by similar moves in the U.S.).

I look fondly to our (the U.S.) North for moral exemplars.

Priya Lynn
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Fred said “Do you claim that, at the time, any other country had this concept of rights to free speech, free association, free exercise of religion, etc. that the state, even with the support of general laws, should not curtail? Do you deny that these form part of what we now call human rights?”.

Only a privileged white man could hold that twisted perspective. That the U.S. allowed free speech and freedom of religion only for white men is a trivial insignificant improvement compared to the outrage of enslaving part of its population. That the U.S. made a trivial improvement in 1791 and then failed to show any leadership in human rights for over 200 years after that in no way qualifies it as a leader in human rights – the U.S. has never been a leader in human rights.

Timothy Kincaid
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Ummm…. the “my country can beat up your country” debate is a bit off topic, don’t you think?

Jon
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

I think it’s important to recognize that before the mid-20th century, much of what we think of as human rights was a concern of state governments in the U.S., rather than the federal government. Thus, the New England states extended the right to vote to free African-American men shortly after independence. Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1780, followed by all northern states by 1804. Some western states granted the vote to women as early as 1910. Freedom of religion was assured in Rhode Island by 1640.

Sometimes two contrasting things can both be true. Many of the concepts most important to human rights (freedom of speech, assembly, and religion) were first enacted into law in the U.S., and some parts of the U.S. made positive changes in some human rights issues earlier than most other parts of the world. And it’s also true that in other ways the U.S. record on human rights is atrocious.

Priya Lynn
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Jon, as an experiment go find four black americans and tell them that the constitution that condoned slavery and defined them as 3/5ths a person was a great advance in human rights because it provided freedom of religion and freedom of speech to white men. See what kind of reaction you get.

Paul
March 5th, 2010 | LINK

Jon wrote:
And it’s also true that in other ways the U.S. record on human rights is atrocious.

…or hypocritical, at best. Canada continuously ‘signs’ international agreements that we don’t inact/enforce here at home.

…sigh….

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