Described by some as the Mediterranean’s ‘liberal paradox’, the small island state of Malta has embraced LGBT rights at some one the fastest paces in the world despite its majority Catholic population. Same-sex cohabitation were first regulated in 2012 and civil unions were legalised in 2014. The Civil Unions Act of 2014 guaranteed that gay couples had all the same rights as married heterosexual couples including the right to jointly adopt children, a freedom that in many states where same-sex marriage was legalised earlier took many more years to achieve. Malta has now gone one step further and legalised same-sex marriage, only three years after civil unions were first introduced.
France has announced that by 2040 all petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned. This follows the example of Norway who also pledged to ban all fossil fuel-powered cars by 2025. France’s ban is more sweeping than Norway’s, however, as Norway’s ban made no reference to commercial vehicles like vans and lorries. The French Minister of Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs Nicolas Hulot said that “the end of the sale of petrol or vehicles between now and 2040”. This is a fantastic step forward and it shows how some countries in Europe are taking climate change seriously. Continue reading →
A few days ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she may drop her opposition to a vote on marriage equality after she said at a debate that her party was discussing the issue at length. At this same debate Merkel argued that she favoured a conscience vote on the issue. Almost all the Chancellor’s political opponents support marriage equality and after her announcement sought to gain political capital from her decision. They pressured for a snap vote on the issue and, much to my surprise, she permitted one.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is often lauded in the Western press as an example of a strong national leader that proudly stands up for socially liberal values. This was most notably demonstrated by the approach many organisations took to her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, much to the opposition of other EU states. However for advocates of LGBT equality there has always been a black rain cloud above Mrs Merkel when she is described in such glowingly positive terms as she and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) have always opposed the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The news yesterday was that the CDU may change this position.
There is still a long way to go when it comes to the march for LGBT equality. There are a number of battles that need to be fought around the world from the embryonic struggle to end the criminalisation of homosexual activity to more complex areas like systemic homophobia in public institutions. In the case of the latter the ultimate symbol of progress is the choice of an LGBT person to become the leader of a country. However it is important to stress that this symbolism has a different significance in different political cultures.
The first round of the French presidential election took place a number of weeks ago and the result was that neither candidate from the two main political parties of France- the Socialist Party and Les Républicains- made it into the second round of voting. Instead, former Socialist Party minister and self-declared centrist Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National made it into the second round vote. Left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon narrowly finished fourth with nearly 20% of the vote. Mélenchon was the candidate that I wished to see elected as the French President and but because of the result there have been many questions about who these voters should support. I’m going to argue against some of the nonsense that has been proposed in recent weeks before revealing what I would do.
In Western media there has been justifiable outrage over the reports of concentration camps being established in Chechnya. Naturally such a move should be condemned and pressure need to be put on the Russian government to either stop the persecution or permit the safe passage of those under threat out of Chechnya. However, this doesn’t require any substantive political analysis as even those who do not especially care about LGBT rights would oppose the establishment of concentration camps. The subject of this piece is concerning the discourse around this news story, particularly the view that seeks to link this new development with Chechnya’s status as a Muslim-majority area.