UK takes big step toward marriage equality, proposed for 2012
LONDON — The United Kingdom, which is ruled by a coalition government under conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, said today that it would create a consultation to expand civil partnerships to marriage equality.
Lynne Featherstone, the UK’s Equalities Minister who is a Liberal Democrat, made the announcement that pleased marriage-equality supporters around the globe. She said the consultation would begin in March 2012 with the goal of changing the law ahead of the next election scheduled in May 2015.
Featherstone told the British media that the UK would be a “world leader for gay rights.”
Although a conservative, Cameron backs the move and supports marriage equality. The prime minister has also been vocal about fighting homophobia in Africa and around the world.
Featherstone said gay and lesbian couples who want to wed would be permitted to have full marriages in registry offices just as straight couples do. However, gay and lesbian weddings in churches and other religious facilities would be prohibited in the UK, even though a number of faith groups want to offer same-sex marriages. The UK will soon allow faith groups to offer civil ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Polls in the UK show overwhelming support for marriage equality, with two in three Brits favoring gay and lesbian weddings.
Ben Summerskill, head of the British gay rights group Stonewall, said he wished the government push was bolder.
“This change will make a difference to a number of gay people who are concerned at the differing status of civil partnerships and marriage.
But it will not apply to churches and it seems unfair as a matter of religious freedom that if some denominations – such as the Quakers – wish to celebrate same-sex marriages, they should be barred from doing so,” Summerskill told the Daily Mail.
Mar Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry in the U.S., praised the move.
“Today’s terrific news out of Britain reinforces what we have seen in state after state – anything short of marriage, by any name, simply does not convey the full meaning, understanding and protection that marriage brings,” Solomon said.
“It’s particularly impressive that Prime Minister David Cameron, the leader of the British Conservative Party, is leading the charge to move to full marriage in the UK. We repeat our call on President Obama to join Cameron in offering principled leadership, finish his ‘evolution,’ and join the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry,” Solomon said.
Freedom to Marry in March started a petition calling on the President to come out in support of marriage equality, and more than 115,000 Americans have signed it. Obama has voiced support of legislation that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but has stopped short of personally stating his support for equality, saying only that his position is “evolving.”