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Just a heads up about some news here in the UK which should give those campaigning for equal same sex marriage rights some hope. (I'll quote from my impending Daily Beast piece and link when the whole thing is published early tomorrow)

By a resounding majority of 400 votes to 175 the House of Commons voted on Tuesday night for the second reading of a bill according equal rights same sex couples.  The government sponsored bill represented an overwhelming victory for those campaigning for gay marriage is a victory many didn't expect to see in their lifetime. But how did the UK, which often lags behind the US on civil liberties, manage to steal another march on gay rights?

Nine years ago, in the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the New Labour government created landmark legislation recognising same sex marriages in civil and legal terms.

There are only a few small changes in the rights proposed by the new bill   – which still requires line by line reading and a vote in the House of Lords before it becomes law - but there are two huge symbolic differences.

The first is that it allows religious institutions to recognise gay marriage...


The second cultural shift is that the '€˜Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill' was introduced by the Conservative leadership....

I then write about how senior conservatives in the coalition cabinet backed the prime minister, with William Hague, the foreign secretary, George Osborne, the chancellor, and Theresa May expressing open support for the bill before the debate even began.
"Marriage has evolved over time,â€" they wrote in a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph. â€"We believe that opening it up to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, the institution. As David Cameron has said, we should support gay marriage not in spite of being Conservatives, but because we are Conservatives."€
I then explain how the co-option of gay rights as a Conservative cause is not an entirely new phenomenon.  Cameron himself has long been a moderniser in this cause, and was one of just 29 MPs to back gay adoption legislation in 2007. Before she had to trim to the right on social matters, the great icon of British conservatism, Margaret Thatcher, voted for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967.
To Damian Barr, a journalist and author of the forthcoming book about Thatcher’s impact on a gay young man growing up in the â€'80s and â€'90s, Maggie & Me, the success of same sex marriage  bill "€œis actually a profoundly conservative moment." "Thatcher believed in including more and more people in traditional institutions,"€ he told the Daily Beast.  "€œSupport for equal rights actually underpins the institution of marriage,"€ he said: "€œIt'™s part of the Thatcherite vein to include more and more people in bigger institutions that underpin the social fabric and collective narrative. "€œ
The article then goes onto explore, given the close relation between Thatcher and Reagan and conservative policies on both sides of the Atlantic, such a shift is possible on the right of US politics. One salient difference between the US and UK is the level of religious observance.   The 2011 UK census showed 25 per cent of the population describing themselves as '€˜atheists'€™ and only 57 per cent calling themselves 'Christian'€™ compared with 6 per cent non-believers and 73 per cent Christian in a recent Pew Poll of the US.

But religion doesn't explain everthing. Secular France is having a horrendous debate on the issue, with only two MPs from the majority right wing opposition party, the UMP, support the marriage equality bill now before the National Assembly. However, Catholic Spain and Portugal voted for equality in 2005 and 2010 respectively.

So here's the suggestion from one of my interviewees who has been active in equal rights campaigning on both sides of the Atlantic:

"€œIn America gay rights are seen as a minority issue for a single interest group," he said.  "€œEqual rights activists could learn from the British example by trying to reach out to their conservative opponents."
Food for thought. Certainly stuff for civil discussion.

Crossposted from the Motley Moose

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Comment Preferences

  •  They were co-opted like that in New York... n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brit, Aunt Pat, bythesea, tardis10


    by LordMike on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:01:35 PM PST

  •  It took them 14 years (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brit, SoCalSal, Aunt Pat, bythesea

    to get from the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act of 1907 to the Deceased Brother's Widow's Marriage Act of 1921, so this is amazingly fast.

    Plus, without those two landmark pieces of legislation, today's action would not have been possible.

    Kudos to the Brits!

    [Note: Today's bill applies only to England and Wales; the rest of the UK persists at the status quo ante ....]

    Too late for the simple life, too early for android love slaves - Savio

    by Clem Yeobright on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:28:04 PM PST

  •  Several years behind the curve but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but still better late than never. Good to see the Brits at the table..

  •  I don't like the suggestion in this diary (0+ / 0-)

    And that is that the U.S. is behind.  Because marriage is predominantly a state issue, the federal government cannot regulate least not yet.  Some day this may change but for now (unless the Supreme Court rules), it is a state by state process.  So the more important question is this:

    Why did the United Kingdom lag behind Massachussetts, California*, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, the District of Columbia, New York, Maryland, and Washington?  For that matter, why does France?  And Germany?  And all these other supposedly more progressive, enlightened, and sophisticated states?  

    *California was the first state in the country where the state legislature enacted same-sex marriage.  We did this twice before it fell to a veto from Governor Gropenfuhrer.  

    Anyway, Cameron deserves a great deal of credit for this.  This is probably his greatest legacy (and Nick Clegg's too).  Labour though also deserves the credit too as their numbers were needed to do it.  If Cameron had gone by the Hastert or Boehner rule, this legislation wouldn't have passed.  The majority of Conservative MPs voted against.   He needed the support from Labour and Lib Dem MPs to make this a reality.  

    Also, your interviewee sounds ill-informed.  Marriage equality is an American export.  No one anywhere in the world cared about or thought about or wanted marriage equality until a bunch of activists began filing a lawsuit in Hawaii in the early 90's.  Even then, only a handful of foreign countries enacted marriage equality (the Netherlands, Canada) before U.S. states began legalizing same-sex marriage.  

    It is only as an equal rights issue that this has garnered support from the majority of the population.  

    Check out my new blog:

    by SoCalLiberal on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:06:03 PM PST

    •  Exactly the reason I put it up for discussion (0+ / 0-)

      I wasn't asserting a universal truth, but an opinion worthy of debate. Thanks for your contribution - aids my understanding. But perhaps people would foster more insight and knowledge if they didn't always start, in the belligerent Kossack fashion: "I don't like the suggestion in this diary..."

      Cheers anyway

      The Fall of the House of Murdoch -with Eric Lewis and all the latest Leveson evidence out now!

      by Brit on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 03:51:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Also (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JGibson, Brit

    The real reason why so many Tories backed this in Britain is because of the fact that culturally and socially, the Cameron wing of the Conservative Party (or perhaps the Ed Heath wing or Harold MacMillan wing) is similar to the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party (except on economic issues).  Some of them even shop at the same stores.  

    McGovern Democrats are the ones who have ultimately pushed the Democratic Party in the pro LGBT rights direction.  It makes sense because many in both wings of their respective parties often have similar outlooks and philosophies on life and ideology generally.  Don't believe me?  Watch the historic convention speeches of Margaret Thatcher and Barbara Jordan and note the similarities in their speeches.  It's why Obama and Cameron have managed to get along so well together (even if they first did not like each other).  

    Check out my new blog:

    by SoCalLiberal on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:17:06 PM PST

  •  The difference between the two countries (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is a social conservative faction in the UK but it is much smaller than in the US.  Like the US, it is primarily found in the conservative party, although there is small but active faction of cultural conservatives in the Labour party as well.  Many British conservatives hold U.S. religious conservatives in low esteem.  (Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London, is a big marriage equality supporter, and is a likely challenger to Cameron.)

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