Posts Tagged ‘Civil partnerships’

Later today (Tuesday the 5th of February) the House of Commons will vote on whether England & Wales should legalise gay marriage. The vote is threatening to tear the Conservative party apart. Currently it is anticipated that as many as 200 Tory back-benchers will rebel against the Government and either vote against the Bill or abstain. This means that to stand any chance of passing, the Prime Minister David Cameron will need support from the Labour Party and its coalition partner the Liberal Democrats.

Senior Conservatives are trying to persuade back-benchers to support the Gay Marriage bill.

Senior Conservatives are trying to persuade back-benchers to support the Gay Marriage bill.

Although it would seem that there is widespread support for Gay Marriage amongst the general population, there are some powerful groups opposing it including the Church of England, the Catholic Church and many Conservative Party activists at the grass roots level. Some Tories have said that the issue could lead to the Conservative Party losing the next General Election, which will be in 2015.

Homosexual acts were illegal in England & Wales until 1967, and “civil partnerships” became legal in 2005. It is certain that attitudes have changed, but many Tories fear that attitudes have not changed sufficiently amongst the Conservative Party rank and file for this legislation to not damage the party’s traditional image. It will be a very interesting day in Parliament.


The vote passed by 400 votes to 175 and so passes its first hurdle to becoming law. Many Tory MPs voted against the Bill, including 6 members of the Government and two Cabinet members.

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There’s been a bit of news recently regarding same sex marriages, both here in the Disunited Kingdom, and in the United States. On Wednesday, Elizabeth the 2nd, the Queen of England (and other places), gave her annual “Queen’s Speech” in which she outlines the main legislation “her Government” will attempt to bring into law in the upcoming Parliamentary session. In reality, of course, it is the Government these days who write the speech, she has no say in what legislation is brought before Parliament.

The Queen walks into the House of Lords for her annual “Queen’s Speech”

There were protests outside Parliament, particularly from the gay rights group Stonewall, about the lack of any mention in her speech of the Government’s promise to introduce same sex marriages. As I have blogged about before, same sex civil partnerships have been legal in the Disunited Kingdom since 2005, but many gay rights activists consider these to be a second class arrangement, and want the ability to have a proper marriage. There were other items of legislation which the Government decided to leave out of the Queen’s Speech, presumably meaning they will not be introduced in this session of Parliament.

Legislation to introduce gay marriages was not included in the 2012 Queen’s speech

After building up the hopes of gay rights activists, the Government seem to be pushing the issue onto the back burner again. This may be because of strong opposition from various religious bodies, including the Church of England.

Stonewall’s reaction to the lack of legislation on gay marriages

Then, this week, the US President Barack Obama made the bold step of announcing his support of same sex marriages. In the United States, the laws regarding same sex marriages are decided at the state level, as are most laws affecting American’s daily lives. But, it is my understanding, that any state which does legalise same sex marriage will automatically have that marriage recognised in the other states. This stance by Obama will, I suspect, become one of the defining differences between his presidential campaign and that of his most likely rival – Mitt Romney. I admire Obama for stating his opinion so unequivocally on such a divisive issue.

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Yesterday (3/11/2011) I read in the Metro newspaper that “gay marriages” (more correctly known as “civil partnerships” in the Disunited Kingdom) are now going to be allowed in places of worship. From what I understand, once they are allowed in places of worship, they will also change to being called marriages rather than civil partnerships.

When I was a student the age of consent for a “homosexual act” (which, I believe, could include kissing someone of the same sex) was 21, whereas the age of consent for heterosexual sex was 16. In 1984 the band Bronski Beat brought out the album “The Age of Consent“, on which nearly every song was about being gay. My favourite song on the album was Smalltown Boy, about a young gay man having to run away from home because of the prejudice against him in his hometown. [note: Peter Coles posted a blog about the same song on his blog about a year ago.]

In 2000 the age of consent for homosexual sex was brought into line with that for heterosexual sex in England & Wales. And in 2005 “civil partnerships” between same sex couples became legal in England & Wales. This week’s news that gay marriages will soon be performed in places of worship shows how far we’ve come. [Note: Scotland has a separate legal system from England & Wales so the dates of the passing of various laws may differ there.]

Homosexuality was only made legal in England & Wales in 1967 (and not until 1981 in Scotland). Before that many (most?) gays were persecuted and jailed for their sexual orientation. Some well known homosexuals took their own lives, rather than face the shame of prosecution and imprisonment.

We still have a long way to go in accepting people’s differences, be they sexual orientation, skin colour, religion or political beliefs. But, we have come a long way in the last 50 years I’m pleased to say.

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