Same-sex Marriage… I think the Ayes have it
You can always tell how the political week ahead will pan out as the media brews over the weekend. Whilst the same-sex marriage debate entered my living room through the (almost) ever present stream of Radio Four, my Facebook feed popped up with the story of two men beaten by a gang of youths in a suspected homophobic robbery. Interestingly, the couple later urged UK politicians to moderate their language when debating same-sex marriage this week.
To me this served as a clear reminder of why what is said in these debates is so important. Despite what some may say, same-sex marriage is not about the possibility of a lesbian Queen or the ability to marry one’s own son. It is about equality and hopefully an end to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Simple as that.
As I tuned in to Parliament TV (a nerdy guilty pleasure if ever there were one), I decided to challenge myself to listen to the same sex marriage debate without going berserk on Twitter. It was a debate with some real highs with some MPs battling for equality. And some real lows…watching others fight against it. Many I fear missing the irony that International Day against Homophobia was only a few days ago.
Critics argue that the same-sex marriage debate is a waste of Parliamentary time. Having seen Parliamentary debates and questions ranging from panpipe music to red squirrels, I beg to differ. Yes, there are many crucial issues that Parliament has to debate but we should never let the urgent crowd out the important.
One thing I have learnt from my time lobbying the UK government is how many countries around the world look to the UK on issues of human rights. The same-sex marriage debate is bigger than the rights it will give us in the UK. So I was delighted yesterday when the Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161.
With the UK well on the way to getting its own house in tip top order (fingers crossed for the vote in the Lords) it is important to recognise the important role the it can play in urging other countries to end discrimination against LGBT people. A good start would be to press the Moldovan authorities to ensure that the recent historic Pride march in the capital Chisinau is the "first of many" and is followed up by other steps to combat homophobic discrimination
Around the world, individuals face numerous human rights violations because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Our research shows that in many countries, consensual same-sex conduct remains criminalised and LGBTI people are often subjected to violence, harassment, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, imprisonment, and torture. Several countries still impose the death penalty for same-sex consensual relations. Currently in Ukraine lawmakers are discussing legislation to criminalize the “propaganda of homosexuality”, whilst the beating and murder of LGBT people has so far gone unpunished.
Recognition of same-sex marriage in the UK may do more than just publicly recognize a relationship between two people. By affirming the right of every person to marry the partner of their choice, the UK Parliament would take an important step towards ensuring equality for all citizens, no matter whom they love. And I hope that message would then ring out across the world.
With reports from Stonewall that more than half of gay young people experience homophobic bullying and with so many watching countries like the UK on these issues I only wish that the top story we all heard was how the UK government supported International Day Against Homophobia by the British Embassy in Japan by flying the rainbow flag rather than focusing on the Parliamentary in-fighting. The fact that the Bill passed with a cross-party majority of 205 just goes to show that for many the fight for equality is an issue that unites, not divides.
I look forward to the day this Bill passes and I hope that all Honourable Members will be in fine voice, much like the New Zealand Parliament, and sing our national anthem to celebrate equality…whether any future Monarch be a lesbian or not.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.