Hot on the heels of Gordon Brown's promises on full LGBT inclusion, we have a variation on the same theme from a less exalted government source: the openly gay Europe minister, Chris Bryant. Just as interesting as the content of his remarks, is the context: a specialist event in which officials from the Foreign office met with representatives of Stonewall, the UK's leading gay rights organization.
The openly gay MP, told us: "I never thought that Ireland would introduce legislation on this [gay marriage] for the reasons others have cited about religion, but it is happening. So I am optimistic. I think in the next 10 years we will see it across the whole of Europe.
In the headline remarks, Bryant forecast that there will be "gay marriage" right across Europe within 10 years. One caveat is that he does not distinguish between full (civil) marriage and civil unions or civil partnerships. On that basis, I believe he is being pessimistic: marriage or unions are already routine across most of Western Europe (Italy is he major exception), and are already starting to spread into parts of Eastern Europe.One of the interesting parts of the report for me, was the insight into what the British government is already doing to advance the cause of LGBT equality globally, through its offices around the world:
Earlier Bryant told the invited guests at the reception, in the Foreign Office's Map Room in Whitehall, that his diplomats were working for LGBT rights around the globe, citing interventions in Eastern Europe, Africa and Iran.
And he said the Foreign Office was trying to make sure that couples who go through a civil partnership in this country have their rights recognised in other places where gay marriage is on offer, particularly in the 13 other European states that have some form of gay partnership law. At the moment, in some countries, gays and lesbians who wed and move abroad have to get divorced and re-marry in their new home state as different governments don't recognise each other's schemes. Bryant said this was "crazy".
One small but useful symbolic gesture, is a practice of flying a rainbow flag above embassy buildings on Pride day (an example that American Express has said it will emulate.) Another is the practice of allowing appropriate embassy officials to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in tis embassies, even in countries where this is not provided for in local law. It seems that demand for this is greatest in Australia, where public demand for marriage equality is mounting steadily, but has not reached acceptance by the major parties. (A proposal by the minor party, the Greens, has just been killed in the Australian Senate, with no support from either of the bigger parties. A high number of absentees suggested that many of the MP's may be in dissent from their parties' official line).
(Read the full report at the Pink Paper)
- Europe-wide Marriage Equality Coming Closer (Queering the Church)
- Equality and inclusion advancing, worldwide. (Queering the Church)
- Gay Marriage, UK: The Legal Challenge Begins (Queer Families)
- UK Queer Christians Support Marriage Equality Campaign. (Queer Families)