Same-Sex Marriage in the U.K.

Big Ben and Gay flagNormally, this is not a political blog, but something happened this week in the U.K. that I can’t resist commenting on. On the 6th, the House of Commons voted to allow same-sex marriage in the U.K. While this doesn’t make it a law yet (there is one more vote in the H-o-C and then a vote in the House of Lords), the large majority who passed the bill make me optimistic for its chances in the additional votes required.

Of course, civil partnerships have existed in the U.K. since 2005, so they have already been light years ahead of us in the U.S.  2005?  That’s one year before some idiots over here were trying to amend the constitution to define marriage as between men and women.  Gay couples have been able to have the same rights as married heterosexual couples for 8 years there, which is pretty damn impressive.  Especially when you consider that more of our states have prohibited gay marriage than allowed it (by a big margin).

If you’re wondering why there would be a big push for gay ‘marriage’ as opposed to a ‘civil partnership’, CNN had an interview with an adorable couple that had been together for 25 years. They already had a civil partnership, but they wanted a marriage because they wanted their relationship to be celebrated and recognized in a religious institution.  Here’s a video of them explaining why the difference is important.

On the Guardian website, I found another quote that points out something very important about the difference. I hadn’t even thought of this:

I believe a UK marriage is currently accepted worldwide, which has particular importance for visa applications, work permits and health and social security, when a couple moves overseas. A civil partnership, however, is binding only in the UK and certain other countries which recognise it. If David Cameron can ensure that all countries, no matter how intolerant their own laws, will recognise a UK marriage between a couple of the same sex, then he is indeed making history.
Chris Hosty
Birmingham

I think the most remarkable and beautiful thing about this vote passing (besides the huge majority that were in favor) is that it wasn’t across party lines.  David Cameron (the current Conservative party leader, and P.M.) along with the numbers 2 and 3 (Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary) all came out strongly in favor of the bill and its stance on equality.  Most of the Nay votes for the bill did come from the Conservative party, but its leaders have been brave and said what they think is right.  And that’s something to be applauded, regardless of how I feel about the rest of their politics.

You wouldn’t see a lot of that bipartisan support here.  I’m a liberal (if this blog didn’t tip you off), but I think anyone awake in America today can see that the Conservative party is aligned very closely with people with very strict notions about Christianity and a moral compass tied to those beliefs. This isn’t an issue about equality for them, but of their own ideas of right and wrong.  Jon Stewart pointed out some of the differences between the opposition to this measure in the U.K. versus the U.S. Watch it here.  With bonus Harry Potter references.

Of course, there are strong opponents in the U.K., particularly the Church of England. The new Archbishop of Canterbury strongly opposes the bill. Big shock there.  I would like to point out that the bill allows for religious marriage ceremonies in institutions that don’t object to the idea.  So if your parish doesn’t want to marry you, I guess they don’t have to.  The couple on CNN points out that they wouldn’t want the happiest day of their lives to be ruined by someone who was forced to take part, so this is no issue for them.  I hope there are enough enlightened vicars & etc. in the UK that this part of the law is not an issue for couples that want to get married.

One strong MP opponent said that defining marriage is not the place of the legislature…apparently it’s just the job of the church? Well, wake up guy, you’re in a country with a massive amount of immigrants from a ton of different countries. You’ve got every religion under the sun in a few square blocks of London.  For the Anglican church to determine what those people get to do is ludicrous; how would you feel if…Islam got to determine what you did? Or Buddhism? And what about the estimated 30% of UK citizens who don’t ascribe to any specific religion or are not religious? Why should the church determine what their marriages should be?  This is exactly the job for the legislature, because no one church can represent the UK.

David Cameron is also on the receiving end of some angry grumbling within his own party. Some are concerned that this measure will cost them votes in the next election.  I don’t see how that argument works out.  It’s a Conservative party, doing something that might attract liberal voters.  So they may lose some hardcore Tory votes but they will probably gain a lot more moderate liberal votes.

David Cameron, I am not your biggest fan, but I hope you tell them all to piss off. You’re doing the right thing. And it will earn you votes (which I think you’re smart enough to know) because people like me won’t think you’re quite as big of a dick as previously estimated.

Cameron has successfully rebranded his party by taking on issues like gay marriage and environmentalism.  The only openly gay lesbian MP in the Conservative party, Margot James, pointed out that the party had to modernize if it wasn’t going to go the way of the US Republican party and alienate moderate voters.  Smart lady.

I can only hope that some politicians and newsmakers in this country will look at the UK Conservative party and see that this sort of reasonable behavior does win respect and it does win votes.  It might be easier for me to say I hope the Republicans continue to implode via discussions about legitimate rape, and Democrats keep winning…but that’s not what’s best for the country. I’d like two logical and reasonable parties please.  For an example, look across the pond.

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