UK government opposes Austrian gay marriage

// 10 December 2008

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The UK government has tried to block other European countries from allowing same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, despite claiming to be in favour of LGB equality.

The Guardian newspaper reports that the UK government had made legal submissions to the European court of human rights, arguing that Austria had no obligation to provide the same rights for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.

The UK government argued that the UK’s civil partnership legislation was “a natural progression towards its goal of developing a more inclusive society”, which was not necessarily relevant to other countries.

“There is no positive obligation to create a structure for legal recognition or registration of same-sex relationships,” it said, claiming that in other countries any such obligation may be out of keeping with the social, cultural and religious norms and traditions.

The UK has now abandoned the opposition, following pressure from the House of Lords.

[crossposted at Lesbilicious]

Comments From You

Jess // Posted 10 December 2008 at 2:13 pm

It’s beyond abysmal that the government did this. I’m actually shocked.

Kath // Posted 10 December 2008 at 2:45 pm

I’m shocked too.

In the article there’s a quote from the government’s submission that “there is not an evolving convergence to the effect that persons in a same-sex relationship should be allowed to contract a marriage.”

Well do you know what? I think there is. And we will win, whatever spanners the government tries to throw in the works.

Sabre // Posted 10 December 2008 at 4:34 pm

That is abysmal.

Yet again I’m thankful that we have a House of Lords to quash these stupid government notions. They may be undemocratic and certainly not flawless but they can be pretty sensible.

It’s like the government are children and the HoL are the parents. Although I suppose it is the job of Parliament to scrutinise.

Sigh

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 10 December 2008 at 6:12 pm

Seems to me certain homophobic government ministers were determined to prevent same sex civil partnerships being passed into law by other European countries. Such ministers were unable to prevent passing of UK civil partnership legislation so they have turned their attention to other European countries.

‘Inclusive society not necessarily relevant to other countries’ ah yes so this phrase can be used to justify FGM, so-called honour killings or any other form of male violence against women in other countries. A very insular and narrow approach because issues such as same sex civil partnerships and male violence against women are not isolated ones only relevant to certain countries but are in fact about human rights.

Anne Onne // Posted 10 December 2008 at 6:46 pm

And then people here complain that the E.U. is trying to run their lives and change their laws? When ‘we’ end up trying to legistlate which couples in AUSTRIA can and can’t marry? Hypocrisy.

I’m quite shocked that they’d bother intervening in what marriage laws a country on the other side of Europe is bringing in, when nobody is being harmed, and it has nothing to do with your average UK citizen. I guess they worried that if it was allowed in other EU countries, eventually there would be pressure for the UK to allow the same (yes, please!) so tried to head it off early, whilst it was confined to another country. I don’t see what right they have to change the laws of another country, though. Just wrong.

‘claiming that in other countries any such obligation may be out of keeping with the social, cultural and religious norms and traditions.’ Because of course someone else’s traditions and religions are your concern, you throwback to the empire, you! The poor widdle Europeans must be so flattered to have the UK tell them what to do with their laws and how to look after their traditions! Seriously, it’s rather creepy and colonialist to assume you know best for another country when their own politicians and people believe differently. It’s hard enough when the change you advocate is to increase equality, but even stupider when you’re trying to hold it back with concern trolling about their culture.

Jenny // Posted 15 December 2008 at 2:18 pm

As the UK government steered Civil Partnership legislation through Parliament there was already a decade of campaigning and successful court judgements behind the concept of equal access to marriage, and complete equality on grounds of sexual orientation. Starting with the Supreme Court of Hawaii. The Netherlands, Belgium and Canada had equal marriage. Instead the UK deliberately decided to go for inequality. Time after time ministers repeated it was not to be marriage, that equal marriage would be against their religious beliefs.

They were being forced to provide some alternative for same-sex couples both by pressure from wealthy supporters facing crippling taxes from which the marred were exempt, and by their need to enact provision to meet the European Court of Human Rights Goodwin judgement, which ruled that people must be allowed to marry as their sex following sex reassignment surgery. If they did not provide for some other form of legal partnership they would have had to allow people who changed sex but were married to remain married, producing same-sex marriages, which, in their prejudice, they would not accept.

So two vastly complicated bills went through hand in hand – Gender Recognition (since they would not accept that sex had been changed), and Civil Partnerships – exhausting extensive parliamentary time that might have been much better used. Those who were married and changed sex found themselves forced to divorce before they could have legal recognition, and then form a civil partnership if they wished. Or vice versa for future couples where maybe they have a civil partnership first. None of that would have been needed if equal access to marriage had been provided, as Spain engineered very simply during the same period.

Although the Humanist Association and Outrage, and indeed the Stonewall founder, Sir Ian McKellen, all pressed for equal marriage access, everyone else – from Stonewall to the women’s movement – was compliant. No doubt mixed feelings about marriage, and being unaccustomed to the concept of equality, helped.

What should have been obvious to all was that the motivation was not for human rights, as was and is claimed by the government, but to forestall full human rights, to maintain inequality. Stripped of the two big lobbies – those wanting to protect their assets, and those wanting gay weddings – there would be virtually no remaining pressure for equal access to marriage that could not be easily ignored.

Why would anyone be surprised, then, when the same government acts against access to marriage – or indeed the development of a body of equality law on sexual orientation – anywhere else? Surely you didn’t believe their previous propaganda?

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