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Chinese Court Takes Historic Step Toward Advancing Same-Sex Marriage

|With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in June, more than 20 countries across the Americas, Europe, and Africa now recognize unions between two men or two women. Yet not a single Asian nation has joined them. That may be about to change.

Movement within China’s court system indicates that the world’s most populous country could be the first in Asia to join the ranks.
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A Chinese court has agreed to hear a case that could grant a same-sex couple the right to marry, Reuters reports.

Sun Wenlin, a 26-year-old gay man hoping to marry his partner, filed a complaint against the Changsha Furong District Civil Affairs Bureau, which denied his request to register the marriage, in Hunan province in December. Sun told Reuters that a local court agreed on Tuesday to hear his case.

Whether the court sides in Sun’s favor, even the decision to hear the case is a step toward LGBT equality.
Related
These Same-Sex Couples Couldn’t Get Married in China, So They Came to America

“In China, courts often reject politically sensitive cases, so the fact that the lawsuit is accepted signals some official willingness to address discrimination against LGBT people, which is encouraging,” Maya Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters. “But we will need to see if they actually win the case. If they do, it’d be a truly watershed moment for LGBT rights in China.”

China decriminalized homosexuality in the late 1990s and took it off the list of official mental disorders in 2001. Since then, the unofficial attitude toward homosexuality is what’s known as “the three nots” approach: “not encouraging, not discouraging, and not promoting.”

Sun states that after he filed the complaint, police attempted to investigate his home and approached family members. He told the Global Times that the police officers who came to his home emphasized the importance of having a child and carrying on the family name, reflecting the nation’s more traditional values. LGBT people living in China are banned from adopting a child and are not protected under antidiscrimination laws, according to international organization Out Right.

Sun is confident in his case, telling Reuters that China’s marriage law “says there is the freedom to marry and gender equality.” He also notes that national laws describe marriage as being between a “husband and a wife” rather than a “man and woman,” and that such labels could be applied to homosexual couples.

This article was originally published on TakePart.

Map shows Europe still divided over equal marriage

Equal marriage is still constitutionally banned in many Eastern European countries.

A map recently uploaded to Imgur shows the progress of equal marriage through Europe from 1989 to the present day and beyond.

In 1989, only Denmark recognised same-sex couples in civil partnerships. Throughout the 1990s, many Eastern European countries passed constitutional amendments banning the recognition of same-sex partnership. Bans in countries like Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia are still in place today.

 

 

As of 2015, same sex marriage is recognised in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Denmark.

Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Greece all give couples access to civil partnerships – but not marriage.

The completed map shows a stark contrast between Western Europe, where the majority of countries have adopted equal marriage, and Eastern Europe – where bans are still in place.

The map includes equal marriage laws that have yet to come into effect – such as Estonia later this year Finland in 2017.

Northern Irish gay couple among first to marry in Republic

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17 November 2015

 

Darren and Tony Day

Darren and Tony Day were among the first couples to be married in Ireland (Photo: Darren and Tony Day)

The first same-sex wedding has taken place in the Republic of Ireland – and a Northern Irish couple were among the first to be able to call each other “husband and husband”.

Tony and Darren Day, from County Antrim, had their wedding celebration in County Monaghan on Saturday. However, as same-sex marriage is not yet legalised – or recognised – in Northern Ireland, the short ceremony earlier today made their union official.

Tony and Darren had initially planned to have a civil partnership and had booked a hotel for 14th November. However, as time passed and – following a referendum – it became clear that the Republic of Ireland was set to introduce same-sex marriage, they became hopeful that they would actually be able to get married.

Darren, whose birth surname was Baird, admitted that it had been “a happy coincidence” that he and Tony were able to make history as one of the first same-sex couples to marry in Ireland, but the historical significance of the occasion mattered less than being able to be legally married. He said: “It’s been lovely to exchange our vows and to make it official, to finally be able to call each other husband and husband. Tony was joking that we would only be able to do that for 10 minutes until we went back over the [Irish] border [but] as far as we’re concerned, we’re married – we got married on this island.”

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Parker walks down the aisle with Darren and Tony (Photo: Darren and Tony Day)

The ceremony on Saturday had no legal basis, but was a celebration of the couple’s love before 220 guests. Tony’s eight year old son, Parker, walked with them up the aisle. Darren said: “It was so sweet, and I’ve never sensed a feeling of love like that. Parker suggested holding our hands and walking us up the aisle, which was amazing for a child so young to have that idea.” Tony said “We held the wedding on Saturday and just tied up the legal bits today in a very small ceremony.”

Speaking to KaleidoScot, Tony was keen to explain how much the day meant to both of them. “We met about six and a half years ago online. We would never have thought what happened today would happen for us, we just always figured getting married would never be an option. We are delighted and slightly saddened at the same time. Delighted that we were able to do it, but saddened that when we crossed the border back into our home country it’s not recognised as a marriage.”

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“We held the wedding on Saturday and just tied up the legal bits today in a very small ceremony” (Photo: Darren and Tony Day)

Asked how their marriage has been received back home in Northern Ireland, Tony said that most people have been positive. “Most of the comments we’ve seen have been very supportive”, he said. “Of course you are gonna get haters – you can’t please everybody all of the time. As our celebrant Eileen Morris said during our ceremony ‘those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.’”

Tony added that he believed marriage equality will eventually come to Northern Ireland. He told KaleidoScot: “I think eventually it’ll be recognised. It’s always just a matter of time for these things. General opinion is changing, we just need our main political party to try to catch up.”

The party he is referring to is the Democratic Unionist Party, who recently blocked a motion in support of same-sex marriage after a majority of assembly members had voted in favour of it.

John O’Doherty, from the Rainbow Project – a Northern Irish organisation promoting health and LGBTI rights – told KaleidoScot: “We at The Rainbow Project send our congratulations to Tony and Darren. Both have been long time supporters of ours. Tony and Darren are Married and should be recognised as such. Our campaign continues and hopefully it won’t be long until their marriage is recognised in Northern Ireland.”

Same-sex marriages in Ireland can go ahead from Monday

 

 

The final stage in passing the legislation was signed into law yesterday evening in Dublin

 

Same-sex marriages in Ireland can go ahead from Monday
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Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald TD and Tánaiste Joan Burton TD

Mike Nesbitt still opposes same-sex marriage despite 'wrong side of history' remark

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Mike Nesbitt
Image caption:  In his speech to the Ulster Unionist Party’s conference on Saturday, Mike Nesbitt warned members who oppose same-sex marriage they would be “on the wrong side of history”

The UUP leader has said he will still vote against same-sex marriage, despite saying that UUP members who oppose it will be “on the wrong side of history”.

Mike Nesbitt made the history remark at his party’s annual conference.

He told Monday’s BBC’s Nolan Show his view has not changed. He said he was “warning” his party same-sex marriage was likely to be introduced regardless.

He said he believed marriage should be “between a man and a woman” but added the issue gives him “sleepless nights”.

‘Prepare yourselves’

“I am against same sex marriage, but I am challenging myself always on these issues,” Mr Nesbitt told the programme.

He said as a mental health campaigner, suicide statistics within the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community gave him “pause” for thought about his own attitude to same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland is currently the only place in the UK and Ireland that has not legalised same-sex marriage. Stormont MLAs have rejected it four times.

Mr Nesbitt repeated that the UUP has not changed its policy of allowing its members to vote according to their consciences on the issue and said that position would not change while he remained as party leader.

However, he said he believed same-sex marriage could be introduced “through the courts”.

“I was just warning our conference that I think that the argument will be lost.

“For those who cannot bring themselves to support same-sex marriage, I think we will be on the wrong side of history and I’m just laying it down as a warning – prepare yourselves,” Mr Nesbitt said.

‘New generation’

He also told the programme that his own children did not understand why he had “an issue with same-sex marriage”.

He said surveys had suggested that the majority of people in Northern Ireland, especially younger people, were in favour of allowing gay couples to marry.

During his speech at the UUP conference on Saturday, Mr Nesbitt said: “Some of us support same-sex marriages, some of us don’t and I think it’s part of the beauty of the Ulster Unionist Party that we respect each others’ positions.

“I’m not going to labour the point today, but to those of us who cannot bring ourselves to support a change in the law, I say this – be aware, we are on the wrong side of history.

“There is a new generation and they simply do not understand why there is a problem.”

57% in Co Antrim support same-sex marriage, says poll

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Belfast Pride

Thousands of people took part in the annual Belfast Gay Pride event in Belfast city centre on August 1, celebrating Northern Irelands LGBT community. Organisers claim there was a larger than normal turnout in the wake of the recent same-sex marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

 

A majority of Co Antrim people support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, a new poll claims.

Campaigners have welcomed the opinion poll, conducted by Ipsos MORI, one of the world’s biggest polling companies, which shows that 57% of adults living in Co Antrim agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Only 38% of people polled here disagreed with the idea, with the remaining 5% declaring they did not know, indicating a ratio of 2:1 support for same-sex marriage rights across the county.
Ipsos MORI says polling was undertaken to “establish a deeper understanding of public attitudes towards same-sex marriage across each of the counties in Northern Ireland”.

Overall, the survey found that 68% of adults in Northern Ireland think that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry – a figure even higher than the 62.1% figure who voted Yes in the recent marriage equality referendum in the Republic.

By political affiliation, support ranged from 80% of Sinn Féin voters, to 79% of Alliance voters, 61% of SDLP voters, and 49% of Ulster Unionist voters. Among voters for the DUP, whose MLAs have repeatedly blocked equal marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the poll shows that just fewer than half (49%) back the party’s stance, while 45% of DUP voters support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to wed.

The publication of the poll results follows a marriage equality rally in Belfast in June when an estimated 20,000 people marched to demand a change in the law to allow same-sex marriage in the region.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted against marriage equality on four occasions since 2012. Campaigners say the figures show that Northern Ireland’s politicians are now out of step with ordinary people on the issue and are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to bring forward marriage equality legislation without further delay.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “We welcome the positive support from the people of Co Antrim for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. The people have spoken and it’s clear they don’t want Northern Ireland to be left behind on marriage equality.

“Northern Ireland’s politicians are badly out of step with the people on marriage equality and we would encourage those MLAs who have so far voted against or abstained on the issue, to think again and to better represent the views of voters across Antrim.

“Following the introduction of marriage equality in the rest of the UK and the overwhelming Yes vote in the Republic, it’s high time Northern Ireland said a big ‘we do too’ to equality.”

John O’Doherty, the Rainbow Project director, said: “Northern Ireland is increasingly isolated in western Europe as a region where marriage equality is not a reality. This is a shameful injustice which cannot be allowed to continue. Politicians can’t simply ignore figures like those in the Ipsos MORI poll. The tide of public opinion has shifted decisively and there can only be one outcome.
“We will continue our campaign to ensure that equality becomes a reality for all the people of these islands”

Clare Moore of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions also welcomed the poll findings: “Through this poll, we see clearly that the people of Co Antrim, like people all across Northern Ireland, now back legislation for marriage equality.

“Everyone should have equal rights and opportunities including the right to marry. It is a simple matter of equality. People have a right to expect that their politicians will promote and defend equality for all.”

Same-sex marriage in the UK and Ireland

Same-sex marriage in the UK and Ireland by Gavin Boyd, Policy and Advocacy Manager of The Rainbow Project.

The cause of marriage equality for same-sex couples has been growing globally for a number of years with many European and Latin American countries moving quickly to legislate and with legislation and strategic litigation furthering the cause in the United States. The passing of same-sex marriage legislation in England, Scotland and Wales coupled with the passing of the marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland has left Northern Ireland as the only region within the UK or Ireland which neither conducts nor recognises same-sex marriages.

These legislative changes which are happening around the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland have led to an increase in speculation as to how or when equal marriage can be introduced. In light of the successful marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland, many activists and politicians have intimated that a similar campaign could introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

It is, however, important to remember that the referendum in the Republic was used because it was the only way to introduce equal marriage. Had the responsibility to introduce fallen to Dail Eireann, equal marriage would have already been introduced because all of the main political parties supported its introduction. However, the understanding of the government and its legal advisors was that the constitution of the Republic would have to be amended to allow for same-sex marriage and only a national plebiscite or referendum could amend the constitution in this way.

As UK has no written constitution there is not the same tradition of referenda to amend or create laws. In the UK, Parliament is sovereign and referenda are not legally binding. Although referenda may indicate public support for an issue, Parliament still has the authority to give effect to the will of the public or legislate in another way. The Rainbow Project believes that a referendum is not the solution to marriage inequalities in Northern Ireland. We know that there would not be the same consensus among political parties as there was in the Republic, likely leading to a more divisive and contentious campaign, without a certain outcome, which would still have to be voted on by the Northern Ireland Assembly. As the Northern Ireland Assembly has now failed four times to introduce marriage equality, we see no reason that a referendum result would compel those members, who are intractably opposed to its introduction, to vote for a marriage equality bill, even if it was supported by the public.

Due to the barriers which exist to a legislative solution to marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, The Rainbow Project has turned to strategic litigation.  When same-sex marriage became lawful in England and Wales in March 2014, we understood that although couples from Northern Ireland could legally marry in England or Wales, they would only be recognised as civil partners when they returned to Northern Ireland. To us, this creates an anomalous situation where someone has their relationship reclassified against their will when they move to another part of the same state i.e. the United Kingdom. We are of the opinion, that if someone is married in the UK, then they are married everywhere within the UK and that any attempt to reclassify their relationship is an unlawful invasion of their rights to privacy, family life and marriage.

To this end, we are now supporting a couple who were lawfully married in England in 2014 who are seeking to have their marriage recognised in Northern Ireland. We are asking the family court to make a declaration of marriage; essentially stating that their marriage was lawfully conducted and that their marriage remains lawful in Northern Ireland. The role of The Rainbow Project in this test case is to source and support the clients. Our external solicitor had prepared the papers, sought counsel, and engaged with PILS to secure funding for the challenge.

Our clients wanted to be married, they did not want to enter a civil partnership. Had they wanted a civil partnership, they could have entered into one in Northern Ireland. The best option for them was to get married in England, as many people from Northern Ireland do.  When they came back to Northern Ireland their relationship was downgraded to a civil partnership. We do not think that this is reasonable. We do not feel that this achieves any kind of legitimate state interest and we strongly feel that there is a public interest in ensuring that a person’s marriage is recognised everywhere within the state they live and cannot be reclassified without their consent.

We are not, at this stage, asking the court to declare that same-sex couples may marry in Northern Ireland, but simply to state that if someone is married they must be recognised as married. The referendum result in the Republic makes the need for recognition of marriages even more urgent. We could now have a situation where a married couple who live in Derry/Londonderry are not recognised as married at home but if one partner travels across the border to work in Donegal, they are recognised as married but the partner who remains in Northern Ireland is not recognised as married. This is a truly unreasonable position for any government to hold and deliberately devalues a same-sex relationship comparative to an opposite-sex relationship without providing any evidence as to why they should be treated differently.

It is important to note that recognition of marriages is only one part of the puzzle, the second is to ensure that same-sex marriages can be conducted in Northern Ireland. However, we believe that the most strategic outcome is to secure recognition of marriages in Northern Ireland and then either allow the Assembly to legislate for marriages to be conducted in Northern Ireland or challenge the failure of the government to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

As our recent rally for marriage equality in Belfast City Centre, with our partners Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, demonstrated there is enormous public support for the introduction of marriage equality in Northern Ireland.  Thousands of people attended to make their voices heard.   If legislative or referendum solutions are not practical to achieving this, then the public interest is best served by strategic litigation.

 

Reprinted 11th Edition: 22nd June 2015

BELFAST CITY COUNCIL EQUAL MARRIAGE MOTION

1 June 2015

Cllr Jeffrey Dudgeon (UUP Balmoral)

I share the sheer joy of friends and comrades in the south at the referendum result.

Ireland, as someone has said, CAME OUT, and became a Republic of Freedom, perhaps for the first time.

Self-confident, modern, generous and tolerant.

Nothing illustrates that more than those hundreds who flew back into Dublin to vote.

It was not ever thus.

When they decriminalised in 1993, it was eleven years since I and a small band achieved the same in Northern Ireland. We had then a handful of non-gay supporters – Mary Holland the journalist, the poet John Hewitt and his wife, and another journalist still with us, Fionnuala O’Connor.

It took the south another decade, David Norris following in my footsteps at the European Court of Human Rights.

Contrary social forces there were strong. Not so now.

Although four out of ten did find reasons to vote NO, the campaign was civilised and largely polite.

So why the change? What happened?

Gay people came out, and the world realised we were not what they were led to expect. That then became a geometric process. Everybody had a gay person in their family or one amongst their friends.

When we decriminalised in 1982, there was a small party in Belfast of a dozen people and later a celebratory disco, not a huge street party with global support.

There was still to be a series of uphill battles in Northern Ireland, to bring about an equal age of consent, a fair and non-discriminatory sexual offences law, and civil partnerships. All were achieved by and through Westminster, with the signal help of Kate Hoey MP in the age case.

Being realistic, most countries in Europe still do not have equal marriage laws.

And the fact remains that in communist and post-communist countries, in the Islamic world and in much of Africa there is prosecution, persecution and worse. A ray of hope – Mozambique has just decriminalised. London a recent opinion poll told us, worryingly, is twice as homophobic as anywhere else in Britain.

Now in Northern Ireland we are being asked to follow suit immediately in the matter of marriage.

I don’t want to be churlish, but decriminalisation in the 1980s was achieved without support from any political party in Northern Ireland.

When the going was tough, the tough were found wanting.

Even today the Alliance Party has an equal marriage policy but it does not discipline MLAs who defy the whip.

Sinn Fein who were not supportive of law reform when it was unpopular, still can’t celebrate or even recognise their most famous gay hero and martyr, Roger Casement.

I am living history and can only take the long view.

I also campaigned for civil partnership when that was the limit of what progressives in the Labour Party and LibDems were offering. I did not say then marriage was next.

We don’t want or need a referendum here. That is a silly notion. The Bill would still have to get through the Assembly where it would be vetoed.

I don’t think the proposers of this motion are showboating or trying to test those who have concerns about a change in the marriage law, but I am nervous of opponents getting demonised for opposing something that was common currency a few short years ago.

I have respect for those I know who cannot support this motion, either because of theological beliefs, or simply traditional views, but not for those in the DUP who would reverse the reforms achieved, even decriminalisation itself. I have said we need to be careful that the balance between the European Convention articles on freedom of conscience and the right to a private life do not get out of kilter. Equality law should not trump human rights.

In my own party there are differing views. We tend to hold to the status quo, and that I understand, but some have already voted for change and it cannot be said they have paid a political penalty – unlike Montgomery Hyde MP, the most prominent exponent in the House of Commons in the 1950s for enacting the Wolfenden report reforms. He lost the Ulster Unionist nomination for his North Belfast seat in 1959 for his courage.

To conclude, I got selected in South Belfast by the UUP for this august body, and elected in 2014, as an openly gay man, and have been treated with respect and courtesy by all the other members. This has warmed my heart like little else.

As to the matter in hand, I am not of the view that the legislative change sought will be achieved through Stormont, certainly for a number of years. This motion is not going to change many minds there. I rather expect my learned friends in the High Court and in Strasbourg will again be the vehicle of change.

jeffreydudgeon@hotmail.com

Motion re: Civil Marriage Provisions for Same Sex Couples – Cllr. Emmet McDonough-Brown (Alliance) to move (Seconded by Cllr. Jim McVeigh, Sinn Fein leader):“This Council believes that all couples in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, regardless of sexual orientation, should have the right to a civil marriage; that the rights of religious institutions to define, observe and practise marriage within their beliefs should be given legal protection; that faith groups which wish to marry same sex couples should not be prevented by the state from doing so; that all married couples of the same sex should have the same legal entitlement to the protections, responsibilities, rights, obligations and benefits afforded by the legal institution of marriage; and calls on the Minister of Finance and Personnel to introduce legislation to extend civil marriage provisions to same sex couples.” Passed by 38 to 13 with two abstentions.

Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

Editorial:  The vote has been a resounding YES for marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland, and the calls are not out for our politicians in Northern Ireland to react positively to this result.  Only time will tell whether our politicians will do so, will they take the lead or will they be left behind?

A couple embraces after the Referendum result

A couple embraces after the Referendum result

I am going to provide links to interesting articles from he local and national papers which all hold similar points of view:

  1. The Independent – Ireland gay marriage: Northern Ireland must now follow lead of historic vote, say politicians
  2. TGS – Peter Tatchell: “Northern Ireland is the most homophobic place in Western Europe”
  3. Belfast Live – Major rally planned for Belfast will call for gay marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland
  4. The Irish Times – Same-sex marriage: gay couples react to Yes vote
  5. The Independent – Ireland gay marriage: What Ireland looked like when it voted yes
  6. News Letter – Same-sex marriage is coming to Northern Ireland
  7. Belfast Telegraph – UN boss praises Ireland on gay vote

 

Ballot boxes are emptied in Dublin for counting of votes in the referendum on same-sex marriage.The support for the proposal south of the border will come north of the border too. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Ballot boxes are emptied in Dublin for counting of votes in the referendum on same-sex marriage.The support for the proposal south of the border will come north of the border too. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

What do you think should happen?  The Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association supports the rights of all people to be equal, and ask therefore that our politicians now engage with the people and put forward a equality marriage bill!