MEPs Glenis Wilmott and Michael Cashman argue for same-sex couples to have their existing marriages or partnerships legally recognised wherever they are in Europe.
Glenis Willmott MEP (Labour, East Midlands) is the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) and Michael Cashman MEP (Labour, West Midlands) is the co-president of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights
In the same week a Tory peer unsuccessfully tried to ban same-sex civil partnerships on religious premises, Labour MEPs pledged their full support for same-sex marriage. All 13 of Labour’s representatives in Brussels backed the Equal Love campaign, calling for the legalisation of both same-sex marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships.
This unanimous support has prompted prominent LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell to call on our colleagues in Westminster to follow suit.
As Labour politicians we are proud of the huge advances in gay rights the Labour government achieved. Civil partnership legislation was a groundbreaking first step, but it is time to end the discrimination, once and for all.
It would be unthinkable to outlaw marriage on the grounds of race, nationality or disability. Yet it is still somehow acceptable to get in the way of two people’s commitment to each other, purely on the basis of their gender. The truth is that gay and lesbian people have been getting married for years – just not to the person they love. If family is one of society’s building blocks, we must send out a clear message that people are free to marry the person they love.
A society where everyone can marry is infinitely healthier than a society of loveless marriages, secret romances, heartbreak and shame. And what about the children growing up in these broken families?
Just this week, researchers found that allowing same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts increased their overall health.
Of course marriage is not for everyone. For those couples who want the legal and financial guarantees of marriage, but do not want to be married, there are civil partnerships. At the moment these are only available to same-sex couples; but why should different-sex couples be denied the option?
David Cameron has certainly never been clear on his views on gay rights, but we welcome his backing of same-sex marriage. Unfortunately there will always be those in the Conservative party who narrow-mindedly compare same-sex marriage to marrying a dog. On this we hope Cameron has the guts to stand up against some of his backbenchers, and does not cave in to the extremists in the same way he has done on Europe.
In the meantime we will continue to fight for better LGBT rights across the European Union and in those countries that want to become members of the EU. We are also fighting for same-sex couples to have their existing marriages or partnerships legally recognised wherever they are in Europe.
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• Time for the Commonwealth to stop the criminalisation of sexuality – Frederick Cowell, October 28th 2011
• The Mail’s rent-a-rev called for gays to be tattooed with health warnings – Alex Hern, October 27th 2011
• Equal Love – the law should recognise gay marriage and same-sex civil partnerships – Peter Tatchell, July 31st 2011
• Bigots vow to bring Ugandan anti-gay bill back – we must continue to fight them – Paul Canning, May 16th 2011
• Tebbit’s extraordinary rant about a “Big Society gay wedding” – Shamik Das, February 21st 2011