World marriage race is on

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2012

It has been a while since a nation offered equal access to its marriage laws to its gay citizens. The first, in 2001, was the Netherlands, followed by Belgium in 2003. There was a spate of laws in 2005-2006 which brought equality to Spain, Canada, and South Africa and again in 2009-1010 in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Portugal and Argentina.

This year did give us Denmark, but as that nation had long had civil unions and there was virtually zero controversy, it didn’t feel much like an advancement or victory. And in Mexico there has been a bit of a creeping equality with certain states granting marriage while others recognized those marriages to some extent or other. Throw in sporadic US recognition and Israel which recognizes foreign but not local same-sex weddings, and the nation-count gets difficult.

But we are now on the verge of some very clear, nation-wide, publicly debated, votes over marriage. And it seems from this vantage point that we are likely to win in at least a few of them.

Scotland – While all of the United Kingdom is predicted to move from civil unions to marriage equality, Scotland – one of four that make up the UK – is seeking to be the first.

However, the Catholic Church is putting up quite a stink about it. On Sunday the nation’s Catholic Churches, led by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, preached against the change. The Church of Scotland is also opposed, though less vocally.

The government confirmed yesterday that they fully intend to continue with the effort. (UK Net)

A Scottish Government official confirmed ministers would press ahead with the plans, as “we believe it is the right thing to do”.

They added: “There is significant support for legislation across Scotland and in the Scottish parliament – with the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament also in favour of same-sex marriage.”

The first ceremonies are expected to be at the start of 2015. Currently gay Scots have civil unions.

France – with the election of the socialist government in France, it has been anticipated that marriage equality would follow. Now that appears to have a date. (Pink News)

Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, had previously announced in parliament that gay couples would be permitted to marry and adopt children in 2013. He addressed members of the Socialist Party on Saturday:

“In October, we will send a bill to the National Assembly and the Senate to allow same-sex couples to marry. It would also allow them to form families and adopt children.”

The idea has support of about two thirds of the populace. Currently, France allows PACS, about the weakest of all forms of partner recognition.

Ireland – The UK’s nearest neighbor seems to be taking a strange direction on marriage. Equality is very popular in the Catholic country (oh how that must irritate Papa Ratzi), and polls at around three-quarters. But they are at a standstill. The national conversation seems to be, “Oh, yes. We all support same-sex marriage… but we can’t pass it because of the constitution.”

It seems that Article 41 in the Irish Constitution says, “The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded, and to protect it against attack.” And while I see nothing there to prohibit marriage or family included spouses of the same-sex, the politicians do.

So in July the government set a committee with the task of studying marriage and coming back in a year to advise whether to have a constitutional convention to amend the constitution to allow equality. In the meanwhile same-sex Irish couples can enjoy civil partnerships.

New Zealand – coming from out of the blue, New Zealand is moving at a dashing pace. I don’t know NZ law well, but if I understand it correctly, the MPs first vote on whether a bill should be sent to committee.

Labour MP Louisa Wall has a bill coming forward on Thursday which has the support of the Prime Minister. A count of MPs shows that more than half have committed to voting for the bill in the first round – and only a few have stated their intent to oppose the opening vote.

I’m tempted to try some sheep joke here, but I’m sure I’d flub it and piss off some Kiwis so I’ll pass. But if you are a fan of wacky sci-fi horror comedy, check out Black Sheep.

Australia – this continent/nation is one of the reasons that I’ve put off writing this commentary for so long. It seems that with every week there’s a new twist and I haven’t had time to keep up with them all.

Here’s a very basic primer: The Labor Party (centre-left) and the Liberal party (centre-right) have roughly the same number of representatives. However, the Labor Party was able to form a coalition government with the Greens, which put them in power.

Within the country, marriage equality has very strong support. And within the Labor Party it has majority support – with the notable exception of the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who seems obstinately determined to stand in its way. Party members, who had been loyally making excuses seem to be increasingly impatient with Gillard and the Greens a seizing the opportunity to push marriage pretty hard.

Over the years some states – particularly the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – have attempted to enact civil unions or some form of couple recognition that has a ceremonial aspect. But the Federal government has been determined to disallow any recognition of this sort and has used their power to squelch it as much as possible in the states. They insist on a registry instead, sort of like for fishing licenses or building permits.

But the states are tired of playing along and are taking stronger action to force the Federal government’s hand. And as equality has the support of the populace, opposition by the Feds could be politically disastrous.

On Wednesday, the ACT legislature beefed up the civil union laws to allow for a ceremonial aspect. Tasmania and South Australian political leaders have vowed that they will go for marriage laws and Tasmania’s Lower House vote could come as early as this week. There are two marriage bills before the Federal government.

Nepal – if this country ever gets around to amending its Constitution (it has been in a sort of political limbo for the past several years), it is expected that marriage equality will be included. The Nepalese don’t seem to have a strong opposition to the idea.


August 27th, 2012

I read somewhere this week that the Colombia legislature will be considering marriage equality for the sixth time in the coming weeks or months. The Supreme Court put them on a deadline to produce a marriage equality law and it will be coming up within a year. If they don’t pass a marriage equality law by the deadline the Court will decree it.

Brazil is starting to allow gay couples to upgrade their civil unions to marriages and in the last couple of weeks a gay couple legally married outright in the country.

I also read somewhere that Ecuador will be debating a marriage bill.

Taiwan and Vietnam are seeing the first rumblings of discussion on GLBT relationship recognition.

There’s definitely something blowin in the wind!


August 27th, 2012

You forgot to mention Uruguay, which already has a bill in Parliment which is expected to be passed by year’s end.

Also Luxembourg is expected to approve such legislation in the spring of 2013.

Germany will likely approve it in a couple years too, seeing as how the last bill barely failed and it was only because they were denied a conscious vote on the matter.


August 28th, 2012

Just to clarify: the issue in Nepal now isn’t amending the constitution, it’s coming up with ANY constitution — the country hasn’t had a proper one since 2006, and the interim constitution expired in May. A new constituent assembly (with responsibility for drafting a permanent constitution) will be elected in November. The constituent assembly can also simply introduce marriage equality via legislation, since the CA also functions as the legislature; this was supposed to have been done in 2010, but appears to have been held up by conservative opposition.


August 28th, 2012

Japan also recognizes foreign marriages as long as one party is a citizen of Japan.


August 28th, 2012

The ACT is not a state of Australia. It is like DC – the federal government can easily overrule changes to ACT law. Tasmania and South Australia will probably get equality first, even though the ACT govt is more progressive.


August 29th, 2012

A few addenda:

– England and Wales are in a consultation phase in the legislative process and are on track to pass marriage equality; their efforts will probably be coordinated with that of Scotland. Disturbingly, the UK gay community seems rather laid back about the whole thing and the loudest voices have come from the opposition and the Murdoch-controlled tabloids.

– Australia is complicated b/c the conservative opposition will not allow a conscience vote. The Labor Party, under the foul Gillard, will allow a conscience vote, so between the solid no bloc of the opposition and the partial aye votes of Labor, we lose. And Labor will almost certainly lose the next election b/c Gillard is polling at 30%.

So probably what will happen in Australia is that a few states will pass it this year, but nothing will happen on the federal level until Gillard is defeated and then the Liberals serve out some number of years in power. Only when Labor comes back into power with someone other than Gillard at the helm can marriage pass. That could be a decade or more. So effectively, this one horrible woman has screwed the entire gay population of Australia for years to come.


– Vietnam has stated that it will study the issue.

Blair Martin

September 1st, 2012

Just another note on Australia – the Labor Party is not in Coalition with the Greens. There is only one Greens MP in the House of Representatives and it is with his support and the support of three other Independent MPs (two who come from the right of politics) that the Labor Party governs as a minority government. In the Senate, the Greens hold the balance of power and exercise their vote either in favour or against Government legislation. In most cases since the 2010 Federal Election, Government legislation has been passed or passed with Green/Independent amendments.

What is becoming more apparent is that Gillard, while nominally being of the Left faction in the ALP (Labor) and identifying as an atheist (and in a de-facto heterosexual relationship) is deeply beholden to an unholy alliance of ALP right wing powerbrokers, Catholic Church adherent members and the egregious Australian Christian Lobby (a sort of Antipodean meld of NOM and AFA) who gave her support in 2010 to challenge and defeat the then leader of the ALP (and Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd due to his poor polling prior to the 2010 Federal Election.

While it may seem that 12 months out from another Federal Election that the ALP will be defeated, the creeping suspicion of over the suitability of the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott (Catholic, right wing and nut-job crazy)for the Prime Ministership combined with the savage government spending cuts, sackings and downgrading of nearly anything socially worthwhile and the homophobic, anti-women, anti-education, indigenous peoples and workers bashing from the newly elected Queensland State Government of Campbell Newman (LNP – Liberal National Party – even more extreme than their aligned Federal counterparts) mean that Labor might some how miraculously survive.

The Federal Liberals are playing politics in trashing nearly 70 years of their own party’s doctrine to allow all members a conscience vote on legislation by stopping any member voting for marriage equality. Their disgraceful stance along with Gillard’s shoddy power-brokered deal to keep her in the top job will anger more people than they believe it will – and the retribution will be ugly.

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