There was some good news this week as it was announced that the first same-sex marriages in the UK can take place on the 29th March 2014. This is following the passage into law of the Marriage (same-sex couples) Act in July, which legalised civil marriages between two people of the same sex. As it stands, those who have a civil partnership will have to wait a bit longer before they can ‘upgrade’ to a marriage, however, civil partnerships already offer the same legal benefits as marriage.
It’s good news, and I’ve long-supported marriage equality. I contributed to the Home Office consultation last year, and was very pleased that the outcome of this was positive. There’s also a delicious irony that the 29th March happens to be the birthday of outspoken critic of same-sex marriages, Norman Tebbit. Famously he said that he was concerned about Britain having a ‘lesbian queen’.
Unfortunately, elsewhere in the world, gay rights are going backwards and not forwards. Russia recently banned ‘homosexual propaganda’ in a loosely-worded law that has seen increasing attacks against gay people, and questioned Russia’s suitability to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year.
This week in India, the Supreme Court re-instated a ban on gay sex, although there are signs that the government will change the law to decriminalise it. And in Australia the High Court overturned a law in the Australian Capital Territory region which permitted same-sex marriage. Sadly, unlike in India, the Australian federal government isn’t keen on legalising same-sex marriage across the country.
Whilst I’m proud to live in a country that is increasingly welcoming to gay people, and is generally happy to afford them the same rights and opportunities as heterosexuals, it’s worth remembering that not everyone is so lucky. Hate crimes and discrimination are still facts of life for gay people across the world, sadly.