1 July 2005

more perfect unions

Spanish MPs legalise gay marriage
The Spanish parliament voted yesterday to legalise gay marriage despite protests by Roman Catholic clergy and conservative groups. Spain is now one of only four countries in the world that grant gay couples the same status as heterosexuals, and is the only traditionally Catholic country to do so. It joins the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada, which approved gay marriage on Wednesday. 'Today Spain is a more decent country, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members,' the prime minister, Jos�Luis Zapatero, told parliament after the 187-147 vote, which was followed by loud applause, hugs and tears of joy by gay activists.

'This law will not engender evil,' he continued, referring to church opposition, 'it will save human suffering'.

Canada approves gay marriage
Canada last night became the third country in the world to approve gay marriages when MPs passed a historic bill granting same-sex couples equal rights to those in traditional marriages.

The bill was passed by the Canadian House of Commons despite strong opposition from religious leaders and conservative MPs.

Gay marriage is already legal in seven provinces in Canada, but the new legislation grants same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples nationwide. The Netherlands and Belgium are the only other countries to allow gay marriages.

The bill - drafted by the minority Liberal party government of the Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin - has been hailed as a step forward for human rights.

"We are a nation of minorities," Mr Martin said. "And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights. A right is a right, and that is what this vote tonight is all about."

The legislation split the Liberal party, with 158 MPs voting to pass the bill and 133 against. The junior cabinet minister Joe Comuzzi, responsible for development in northern Ontario, resigned on Tuesday rather than voting on the issue.

Hasta maƱana
It is possible for major political parties in western democracies to enact equality on their own intiative without suffering a loss of public confidence.

This may sound obvious, but there remain hundreds of Australian politicians who do not understand it.

And why?

Because the leadership of Australia’s LGBT community has failed in its duty to educate decision-makers and the public about the merits of reform, and about how it can be achieved.

I say “failed” because recent polling in the LGBT community in Victoria shows overwhelming support for marriage equality, greater even than for de facto relationship equality.

An LGBT leader who does not represent this aspiration to their fellow Australians is not doing their job.

In 2004 Australia joined the US in moving in the other direction. Last year's marriage inequality bill would not have become law without the votes of Labor senators. It is a grave pity that Mark Latham did not discover the need for Labor to stand for something until after he had assisted the Man of Steel to enact 'No Poofters!' into law.

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