In Ireland, Marriage Equality have launched a publicity campaign, “We Are Family” for gay marriage to the June month of of Pride. This is timely. Although the Irish government made a clear commitment last year to provide for strong civil partnerships on the British model (not quite full marriage), the timetable seems to be constantly stretching. the Civil Partnership was originally published in June 2oo9, with a promise it would be operational by the end of the year. Enactment is no longer expected any time sooner than October 2o1o.
Checking the progress of marriage equality in Ireland led me also to check on the other countries which have had big announcements, in some cases followed by silence.
Marriage in Europe, June 2010 (Wikipedia)
This is the highest profile story, and the battle has already been won. The bill has been ratified, and will take effect as soon as next week.
After Portugal and Slovenia, the most likely contenders to be next in line are the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Iceland and Finland. (Sweden and Norway already have full equality. In Sweden, that includes church weddings.)
Last year, a ruling by the Constitutional Court forced action on equality on the government, who announced moves to full equality. The Equality bill which ensued was duly passed by the country’s lower house of parliament on March 2 this year. Since then, I have been unable to find any reports of progress in the upper house. As the bill was mandated by court decision, I assume it must eventually become law – but who can say when?
This was the first country anywhere to accept gay civil unions, more than 20 years ago. Right from the start, these were popularly thought of as “gay marriage”, and are by now so familiar that acceptance of full marriage is widely accepted in principle – but low in priority. A news report earlier this year suggested that government had accepted the principle of gay marriage, but that the delay at present was just waiting to get approval from the Danish Lutheran Church for their own acceptance of same sex weddings in church, as in Sweden.
As in Denmark, the political will is there (with an openly lesbian PM, how could it not be?), but there is some delay while they attempt to achieve the backing and support of the Lutheran Church.
The leaders of all the main political parties have accepted the principle of a move from civil unions to full marriage, but the issue does not appear to have any great priority. Equality for Finns will surely come, but do no expect any progress until after the next general election – another couple of years to wait, then.
A news report from the Cyprus Mail back in February that the government had promised to “look at” gay marriage led me to ask breathlessly “Would Cyprus be next?”. As there has been not a whisper since, anywhere, I think I can answer confidently “No.” The government may well have “looked” at the question – and then looked away. It takes more than looking to achieve change, it requires political will and action. (Will David Cameron’s promise before the UK election to look at gay marriage go the same way?)
In Albania, the delay is because ME has become embroiled in wider, much more serious constitutional issues. The governing party has declared support and promised a marriage bill. The opposition socialists would also support the proposal – but do not recognize the validity of the government since the last elections, for which they dispute the results. They have paralyzed parliament by boycotting it. Gay marriage, it seems, will pass when parliament reconvenes: but nobody can say when that will be.
Outside of Europe, the brightest hopes are in Argentina and Nepal.
A bill to approve both marriage and adoption rights for gay couples has already passed the Lower House of parliament, and is currently before the Senate. In an innovative move to take debate around the country, a Senate committee is touring major provincial cities to sound public opinion. The country’s president and Senate leader have both said they will not obstruct debate, nor veto the bill if approved. However, my own gut feeling is growing more pessimistic. Declared sympathies of senators are running about even, but a large bloc will not disclose their views, which I do not take as a promising sign.
As in Slovenia, equality has been mandated by the courts, and must come. As in Albania, the process has been clouded by bigger issues of fundamental constitutional change. Until they have been resolved, marriage equality is unlikely to be enacted. It is clear thought that the political will is now there: the money men have recognized the potential value of the pink pound to the country’s crucial tourism industry, and regularly float stories in the Western gay press promoting Nepal as a wedding and honeymoon destination. They will not want to backtrack now, but I am not going to stick my neck out and predict timing on the wider political issues.
Possibly the biggest marriage story I have not been reporting on comes from Oz, where I have a sense of a steadily growing groundswell of public support. However, their has not yet been acceptance by the two major political parties for anything beyond civil unions, and even they are limited to certain jurisdictions. However, there is widespread de facto recognition of same sex couples, the small but important Green party has embraced the cause, and if I am right that public pressure is growing, this could become a high profile issue quite suddenly, at least in the key states of Victoria (Melbourne) and New South Wales (Sydney).
New Zealand was one of the earliest countries to adopt strong civil unions, which offer marriage in “everything but name “- and adoption rights. But I have never seen any reports of pressure for anything stronger. What gives? Are Kiwi queers so laid back that the name doesn’t matter? Are they not interested in adoption? Or have I (and Wikipedia) simply been missing the news stories?
Meanwhile. my research for this post led me stumble upon this delightful snippet, on religion and divorce. Which religious grouping (in the US) do you suppose has the highest divorce rate? Evangelical Christians. Which has the strongest opposition to gay marriage? (Oh, right that;s too easy – Evangelical Christians).
And which has the lowest divorce rate? Catholics. Which has (among) the lowest opposition to gay marriage? Catholics, again.
Perhaps that is why the religious right is so opposed to marriage equality – they are so desperate to rescue the parlous state of their own, that they will try anything, no matter how far-fetched. While Catholics, feeling less threat to their own marriages, are happy to share the benefits more widely.
OK, the preceding paragraph badly oversimplifies, and the data on divorce is ten years old, from a research outfit I’m not familiar with. This needs more careful analysis. But prima facie, I thought it fascinating.