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Same-sex marriage law takes effect in England, Wales

Peter McGrait, David Cabreza, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, England, Great Britain, gay news, Washington Blade

Peter McGraith and David Cabreza were the first same-sex couple to legally marry in England on March 29. (Photo by Alicia Clarke)

A law that allows same-sex marriage in England and Wales has taken effect.

Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, who have been together for 17 years, exchanged vows at Islington Town Hall in London shortly after midnight in the U.K. (8 p.m. EST.) Peter Tatchell, a British LGBT rights advocate, witnessed the wedding.

“We are thrilled to be getting married,” said McGraith before he and Cabreza exchanged vows. “It is a mark of significant social progress in England and Wales that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed.”

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the arrival of marriage rights for same-sex couples in England and Wales.

“The introduction of same-sex civil marriage says something about the sort of country we are,” he said in an op-ed that Pink News published exclusively. “It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay.”

The British Embassy in D.C. hosted a reception to commemorate the law taking effect.

“I’m particularly delighted the British Embassy can add another step forward towards the march for equal marriage,” said Rosalind Campion, counselor for global issues at the British Embassy in Washington, as she discussed the civil partnership into which she and her partner entered five years ago.

“This is about equal rights for everybody, whoever they are,” Deputy British Ambassador to the U.S. Patrick Davies told the Washington Blade before same-sex couples began to legally marry in England and Wales.

LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and across Europe also celebrated the law taking effect.

“The advent of marriage is a further historic step in the journey to full equality for lesbian and gay people in England and Wales and contributes significantly to the growing international momentum for equality,” said Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland. “A very strong message of inclusion, value, respect and equality is being sent to people everywhere.”

Catholic Voices criticized Stonewall and other British LGBT advocacy groups that backed the same-sex marriage bill.

“Despite the claims of lobbies and the government’s own wishful thinking, gay marriage will not strengthen marriage,” said Catholic Voices earlier this week in a blog post.

Iceland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples alongside 18 states, D.C. and Mexico City.

The Scottish Parliament last month approved a same-sex marriage bill that will take effect later this year. A referendum on whether gays and lesbians can exchange vows in Ireland will take place next year.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships in the U.K. since 2005.

Great Britain, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, marriage equality

The British embassy held a celebration on Friday night. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

29
Mar
2014

Equal marriage reception

The British embassy held a reception on Friday to celebrate equal marriage in Britain and Wales. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key) equal marriage 

31
Mar
2014

U.K. House of Commons approves marriage bill

Great Britain, England, British House of Parliament, House of Commons, House of Lords, Big Ben, gay news, Washington Blade

A same-sex marriage bill passed a final hurdle in the House of Commons by a vote of 366-161 on Tuesday, and now heads to the House of Lords for final approval. The law puts the United Kingdom on par with Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, and most recently France in extending marriage equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. (Photo public domain)

The British House of Commons on Tuesday gave its final approval to a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales.

The 366-161 vote capped off two days of debate on the measure that the same chamber overwhelmingly approved in February.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Spain and Portugal are among the 11 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Gays and lesbians in neighboring France can begin to legally tie the knot next week after President François Hollande on May 18 signed his country’s same-sex marriage bill into law. Gay couples in Uruguay and New Zealand will also be able to walk down the aisle in August once their same-sex marriage laws take effect.

Brazil’s National Council of Justice on May 14 ruled registrars in the South American country cannot deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.

The British House of Lords is expected to consider the same-sex marriage bill next month.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson are among those who support the bill.

‘This evening’s vote shows MPs are on the public’s side, as poll after poll shows a clear majority of people in Britain support equal marriage,” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall said. “Now that the bill has cleared the Commons without any of the wrecking amendments tabled by opponents, we hope peers will show the same respect to public attitudes.”

21
May
2013

Gay advocates outside U.S. applaud Supreme Court rulings

Louisa Wall, New Zealand, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall (Photo courtesy of the office of Louisa Wall)

LGBT rights advocates around the world joined their American counterparts in celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8.

“This is a fantastic outcome from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, an Irish LGBT rights group, said. “The ruling is a pivotal moment in the achievement of equality for lesbian and gay people in the U.S. and the decision will echo across the world.”

A commission charged with reforming the Irish constitution in April overwhelmingly approved a recommendation to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore last Friday said a referendum on the issue will take place in 2014.

The British House of Lords continues to debate a proposal that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales.

Andy Wasley, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT advocacy group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade on Thursday his organization hopes “we’ll be celebrating too within the next few weeks.”

“It’s heartening to see a more enlightened attitude towards the rights of 19 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re delighted for those in California who can now dust off their wedding plans and look forward to their special day.”

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who represented three same-sex couples in the Mexican state of Oaxaca whom local authorities denied marriage licenses in 2011 and 2012, agreed.

The Mexican Supreme Court in February released its ruling that found the Oaxacan law against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The three couples whom Méndez represented who petitioned the Mexican judicial system to ensure local authorities would protect their constitutional rights exchanged vows shortly after the country’s highest court announced its decision. Chihuahua and Baja California del Norte that includes the city of Tijuana are among the five other Mexican states in which same-sex marriage efforts are also underway.

“The decision from the (U.S. Supreme) Court is great news,” Méndez told the Blade. “Without a doubt it represents an advance and at the same time it is the realization of the international trend for equality and not to discriminate against the LGBTTTIQ community.”

Canada, Argentina, Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and South Africa currently allow same-sex marriage.

Gays and lesbians will be able to tie the knot in Uruguay and New Zealand in August.

Brazil’s National Council of Justice last month said registrars cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians in neighboring Colombia last Thursday began to apply for civil marriage licenses, even though it remains unclear whether a 2011 ruling from the country’s highest court allows registrars and judges to issue them.

Louisa Wall, the New Zealand parliamentarian who introduced her country’s same-sex marriage bill that received final approval in April, told the Blade she is “incredibly proud” of LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. for “their persistent, progressive and inclusive pursuit of equality under the law.”

“I am also buoyed by the reaction to the decision by President Obama and his directive to officials to identify laws that this decision is relevant to and to expeditiously implement the necessary changes to guarantee legal equality for all couples,” Wall added.

Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said the Supreme Court decisions “sends a powerful message” to his country’s lawmakers on the issue.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision sends a direct message to Australian politicians that our law against same-sex marriage violates basic principles of equality and fair treatment must be removed,” he said.

LGBT rights advocates in other countries in which same-sex couples cannot legally marry echoed Croome.

Three gay Chilean couples who had been denied marriage licenses last September filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after the South American country’s Supreme Court ruled against them.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement on Wednesday the Supreme Court decisions “changed the political and cultural context in relation to same-sex marriage.” The organization added it feels the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will certainly take these changes into account when it considers the case of the three gay Chilean couples.

“The signal given today by the U.S. Supreme Court is that the days of homophobic laws like DOMA are numbered,” Movilh said. “This is a process that nobody can stop.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Supreme Court

Ugandan activvist Frank Mugisha (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, also welcomed the rulings.

He and other activists in Uganda and around the world have criticized the country’s lawmakers for supporting the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

Mugisha, whom then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored last summer at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, said he feels the Supreme Court decisions “weakens the extreme religious conservatives” whom he categorized as exporting “hate to Africa and Uganda.”

“I celebrate every step towards equality, especially in the United States,” Mugisha told the Blade hours after President Obama applauded the rulings and responded to a question about the criminalization of homosexuality in Senegal during a press conference in the Senegalese capital with the country’s president. “Although our fight in Uganda is at the first step and not about marriage equality, due to the global village, equality for same-sex couples in the United States in certain ways adulterates homophobia in Uganda as Ugandans get used to gay people being normal globally.”

28
Jun
2013

British House of Lords gives final approval to marriage bill

House of Lords, Great Britain, England, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality

Same-sex marriage supporters gather outside the British House of Lords in London on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Simon Callaghan)

The British House of Lords on Monday gave its final approval to a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The measure passed on a voice vote after parliamentarians debated the measure for more than an hour. Same-sex marriage supporters and opponents also gathered outside Westminster Palace in central London as the House of Lords considered the bill.

“Judge us on the creation of the liberties we protect and extend,” Baron Waheed Alli, who is gay, said.

Baroness Tina Stowell of Beeston said she is a “firm believer in justice and fairness” as she described the same-sex marriage measure as “a force for good.” Baron Patrick Cormack of Grimsby urged those who support the bill to acknowledge opponents who feel it “does change the structure of society by changing the definition of marriage.”

“I understand that you feel euphoric today, but please have a thought for those who have different views,” he said.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, a British LGBT advocacy group, applauded the vote.

“It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends,” he said in a statement. “The bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.”

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Canada, Argentina, Mexico City and 11 states and D.C. currently allow same-sex marriage.

Gays and lesbians in Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Zealand and Uruguay will be able to tie the knot on August 1.

Brazil’s National Council of Justice in May ruled registrars in the South American country cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A judge in neighboring Colombia last week said a gay couple in Bogotá, the country’s capital, who had sought legal recognition can enter into a civil marriage on July 24.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8 that had banned same-sex marriage in the Golden State.

The Scottish government last month introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Scotland.

The bill will return to the House of Commons, which approved it in May, for parliamentarians to consider any last-minute amendments. They will then send it to Queen Elizabeth II who will sign it into law through royal assent.

The first same-sex weddings are expected to take place in England and Wales sometime in the spring of 2014.

15
Jul
2013

Church of England to allow partnered gay bishops

Gene Robinson, gay news, gay politics dc, Washington Blade

Bishop Gene Robinson became the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay Bishop in 2003, setting the stage for a decade of advances for LGBT people in the church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Church of England on Friday announced that clergy in same-sex civil partnerships can become bishops as long as they remain celibate.

“The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships and living in accordance with the teaching of the church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate,” Rt. Rev. Graham James said on Friday on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. “The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline. All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England. But these, along with the candidate’s suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case.”

The House of Bishops said in 2005 before a law that allowed same-sex couples to register as civil partners in the United Kingdom took effect that gay celibate men could become clergy. The body voted to extend the policy to bishops last month during a meeting outside London.

The ordination of gay bishops in the Church of England has remained controversial since Rev. Jeffrey John in 2003 became the first person in a same-sex relationship successfully nominated as bishop. He stepped down before he was to have been officially consecrated.

Gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s 2003 election sparked a firestorm of controversy that threatened to divide the broader Anglican Church — he wore a bullet proof vest during his consecration that took place inside a hockey area on the University of New Hampshire. Sharp-shooters were stationed on nearby rooftops during the ceremony, while protesters gathered outside the venue.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams barred Robinson from attending the decennial Lambeth Conference in England in 2008.

Los Angeles Bishop Mary Glasspool in 2010 became the first partnered lesbian to be ordained within the Episcopal Church. John had been considered a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark the same year, but his nomination was blocked.

LGBT rights advocates largely mocked the church’s statement — and especially its insistence on celibacy.

“We’re sure many Anglicans will be happy to hear of the church’s latest epiphany on gay clergy, although many lesbians will be disappointed that they remain unable to serve as bishops,” Ruth Hunt, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT rights group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade earlier on Friday. “I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the church.”

Reverend Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, an LGBT Anglican group, did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment. He told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the church’s statement “will be laughed at by the majority in this country.”

Conservative Anglicans criticized any effort to allow gay bishops within the church.

“That would be a major change in church doctrine and therefore not something that can be slipped out in the news,” Rev. Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, an evangelical group within the Church of England, told the BBC. “It is something that has got to be considered by the General Synod.”

The church’s announcement coincides with the British government’s plan to introduce a bill later this month to introduce a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to consider a similar measure this year.

04
Jan
2013

British House of Commons approves same-sex marriage bill

Great Britain, parliament, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Takasunrise0921 via Wikimedia Commons)

The British House of Commons on Tuesday approved a proposal that would allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The 400-175 vote came after an hours-long debate on the measure.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller stressed the bill “is about fairness.” She said it also protects religious freedom and registrars would receive the same protections under the law.

The European Court of Human Rights last month said religious beliefs cannot justify discrimination against same-sex couples. A registrar who said the Borough of Islington outside London unfairly disciplined her because she refused to officiate civil partnerships for same-sex couples after the United Kingdom’s civil partnership law took effect in 2005 is among the two British Christians who claimed their employers unfairly discriminated against them because of their opposition to homosexuality and relationship recognition for gays and lesbians.

Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Yvette Cooper noted President Obama’s support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

“Parliament shouldn’t stop people getting married simply because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex,” she said.

Gay MP Stephen Gilbert, who represents St. Austell and Newquay in Cornwall, highlighted the struggles he said he faced when coming out as he spoke in support of the proposal that he described as “historic legislation.”

“We have a come a long way in a short space of time,” Gilbert said. “But it is absolutely right in my view that the House take the next step and deliver full equality to gay men and lesbians in this country.”

MP Nadine Dorries, who represents portions of Bedfordshire, said the bill “actually highlights the inequalities that are going to be there.”

“Marriage is based on the definition of sex,” she said.

The vote took place three days after French lawmakers approved an amendment to a same-sex marriage bill that defines marriage as between two people of the opposite or same sex. Legislators continue to debate the proposal that would extend both marriage and adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are among the European countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. Scottish lawmakers in the coming months are also expected to consider a similar measure.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall, gay news, Washington Blade

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill (Photo courtesy of Stonewall)

“As the last piece of the legislative jigsaw providing equality for gay people in Britain, this is a truly historic step forward,” Ben Summerskill, executive of the LGBT advocacy group Stonewall said. “We’re absolutely delighted that MPs have demonstrated so overwhelmingly that they’re in touch with the twenty-first century.”

Summerskill said he expects “a tough battle” in the House of Lords on the same-sex marriage bill, but he remains optimistic about the measure’s prospects. Prime Minister David Cameron also supports the proposal.

“The size of the Commons majority seen tonight — much larger than for most normal government business — will make it very difficult for peers to suggest that the bill should be rejected,” Summerskill said.

05
Feb
2013

French lawmakers to vote on gay marriage, adoption bill

France, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds of thousands of same-sex marriage supporters marched through the streets of Paris on Jan. 27. (Photo courtesy of Brian Ellner)

French lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to vote on a bill that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The long-anticipated vote in the country’s National Assembly will take place after lawmakers began debating the proposal on Jan. 29. Supporters and opponents of the bill have staged several marches through the streets of Paris in recent months.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are among the European countries that currently allow same-sex couples to marry.

The British House of Commons on Feb. 5 overwhelmingly approved a proposal that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers are expected to debate a same-sex marriage proposal in the coming weeks.

12
Feb
2013

Queen Elizabeth II to support anti-discrimination pledge

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Defender of the Faith, gay news, Washington Blade

Queen Elizabeth II (Photo public domain)

A British newspaper on Sunday reported Queen Elizabeth II will support a pledge that calls for an end of all forms of discrimination.

Elizabeth on Monday, which is Commonwealth Day in the 54 countries that comprise the British Commonwealth, will sign a charter that includes a statement that declares opposition “to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, creed, political belief or other grounds.” The charter does not specifically refer to gay men and lesbians, but the Daily Mail cites sources within Buckingham Palace who said “other grounds” implies LGBT rights.

“This is an important development,” Andy Wasley of the British LGBT advocacy group Stonewall told the Washington Blade.

The queen will sign the charter less than six weeks after the British House of Commons overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Scottish lawmakers in the coming weeks are expected to debate the issue.

Anti-sodomy laws remain on the books in a number of British Commonwealth countries. These include Jamaica and Uganda, where lawmakers are poised to debate a bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

India’s Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalized same-sex sexual activity among consenting adults.

A bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in New Zealand is scheduled to have its second reading in the country’s Parliament on March 13. Gays and lesbians can also tie the knot in Canada and South Africa.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has previously suggested the allocation of international aid should hinge upon a country’s record on LGBT issues.

“The fact that the queen as head of the Commonwealth is publicly endorsing a statement that opposes discrimination on any grounds sends a strong signal to the many Commonwealth countries where homosexuality remains illegal,” Wasley said. “We’re proud that having achieved equality here in Britain we’re now able to challenge anti-gay discrimination around the world with the Commonwealth’s backing.”

10
Mar
2013