Monday, 4 February 2013

February to be a big month for same sex marriage in Western Europe

French deputies voted by 249-97 in favour of redefining marriage as applying to same sex as well as opposite sex couples. The change is not law yet, but the vote represents one of the bill's main hurdles, and it has been passed in a very passionate political atmosphere, with rallies on both sides.

France 24 reports that 63% are now in favour of marriage equality, with almost 50% supporting equal adoption rights as well.

Meanwhile in Britain there will be a debate on the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Commons this week. The Conservative minister charged with steering the bill through Parliament has stressed that it's the right thing to do at a time when it looks like the Conservative party will face a large rebellion on the issue. Social conservatives within the party are feeling that they are under attack from the Prime Minister and his allies in the name of detoxifying the "Nasty Party" in order to improve the party's image. As Cameron failed to win an outright majority with his rebranded party, it seems that social conservatives are more willing to speak out against some of Cameron's key social policies. There will be a free vote on the issue so that Tory MPs are free to vote with their conscience, but a major battle in the Commons over the issue may promote the image of the Conservative party as a party more interested in fighting itself over issues that aren't salient with the public.

Neveretheless the widespread support for same sex marriage in the House of Commons means that it is likely to be passed by a broad coalition of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

In Ireland the Constitutional Convention has started its work and is scheduled to have a plenary session on same sex marriage in April (PDF). Though the Convention is mandated to look at only a few areas (and is unlikely to have much time to examine further issues on its own motion), and the Convention is not yet a major news story, attitudes in Ireland have changed considerably over same sex marriage. Civil partnerships were only brought in in 2010 (and in force from the start of 2011), but one poll in 2012 was already showing 73% of the population in favour of same sex marriage.

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