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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 38
Marriage equality in U.K. by 2015, government says
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Marriage equality in U.K. by 2015, government says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that governs Britain will introduce marriage equality by 2015, a government minister promised.

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, a Lib Dem, announced the plan on September 17.

'While on my travels as a champion for women's rights, I am and will be a champion for Gay rights, too,' Featherstone said.

'Britain must not get complacent. We are a world leader for Gay rights, but there is still more that we must do.'

According to the Tory-Lib Dem plan, a 'consultation' on marriage equality will begin in March 2012. A change in the law will follow the consultation.

Government sources said ministers are determined to enact the change before the next election.

Under the plan, same-sex couples will be able to have full marriages in registry offices, just as opposite-sex couples can.

But they will still be barred from getting married in churches and other religious buildings - even though some denominations want to offer the services.

Currently same-sex couples are allowed to enter civil partnerships, which offer most of the legal protections of marriage, but the description 'marriage' is not used.

'Civil partnerships were a welcome first step,' Featherstone said, 'but this party rejects prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

'And I believe that to deny one group of people the same opportunities offered to another is not only discrimination, but is not fair.'

Prime Minister David Cameron's office made it clear he took a strong personal interest in the move, and had insisted that progress be speeded up.

The governing Tory-Lib Dem coalition has promised consultations on marriage equality on at least two occasions, but the lack of progress has forced Cameron to intervene.

'He was very keen to press ahead on this,' a source at 10 Downing Street told reporters. 'This is something that the prime minister has taken a strong personal interest in.'

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the British LGBT group Stonewall, welcomed the announcement, but added that the government's proposal does not go far enough.

'This change will make a difference to a number of Gay people who are concerned at the differing status of civil partnerships and marriage,' Summerskill said.

'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.'

The government announcement is likely to unsettle some of Cameron's Tory allies who recall his election pledge to make the new coalition government the most family-friendly in British history.

Former Tory Cabinet Minister Lord Norman Tebbit expressed concerns about the Government's enthusiasm for marriage equality.

'I would have thought there were other priorities at a time like this,' Tebbit said. 'There can be no such thing as Gay marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.'

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