There have been rumbles coming out of the UK for months – suggestions that the new government will back full marriage equality. It is one of those notions that needs to be seen to be believed, I am afraid, which is why I haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon.
Why? A number of reasons.
1) The nature of the Coalition Government in the UK (between Liberals and Conservatives) is that nothing is ever quite certain, even when all parts of the Coalition agree. In particular when it’s the minority partners in the Government, the Liberals, who are backing or implementing the idea. In this case, Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister and @lfeatherstone on Twitter.
2) UK already has pretty good civil partnerships. So the need to address inequality is diminished in practice even if it remains just as strong in principle.
3) There has been a lack of unity among gay rights groups about marriage equality. Most famously the leading group Stonewall hid behind a chimera of ‘member democracy’ (it doesn’t have voting members) before finally backing equality in 2010. This was widely derided by nearly everyone from PinkNews down to the gay in the street. When your own side can’t agree, its not a good start.
4) The UK Government does actually have a series of unpopular and complicated budget challenges to deal with. That could mean marriage equality is a great cost-free way to get back a bit of popularity (happy wedding photos beat photos of the many losers and victims of budget cuts) … it could also easily fall into the ‘too hard basket’
But on the whole I am optimistic. I can’t show you because The Sunday Times of London newspaper now exists behind an online pay-wall, but it carried a very encouraging headline last Sunday: “Marriage law reforms expected this week to give full and equal rights to same sex marriage” …. fingers crossed! According to the paper the proposal to end the ban on same sex marriage will be announced at the same time as the government announces the time table for civil partnerships to be held in religious buildings.