LGBT people across England, Scotland and Wales have been getting married for up to four years now but marriage equality has still yet to be achieved in Northern Ireland. A number of separate attempts have been made to legalise the practice through legislation at Stormont, but so far all have been unsuccessful. These attempts include one vote where a majority of MLAs backed same-sex marriage but didn’t pass because of a unionist petition of concern. However it does appear that political leaders in Northern Ireland are beginning to change their tune as public opinion has shifted. Although the existing dispute goes largely down green and orange lines, some unionist politicians seem to be softening their stance.
In some European countries the idea of legal same-sex marriage is largely uncontroversial. For instance the Netherlands has had equal marriage since 2001, it being the first nation in the world to act. However the more eastward one travels, the more socially conservative countries appear to be on LGBT rights. I contend that 2017 will be an important year because it could be a watershed moment in the history of the European gay liberation movement. Evidently I may have been proven correct already as there has been progress in some parts of Europe in this very area. But even more can be made this year given the changes in public opinion in some European countries.
Taiwanese LGBT campaigners are hopeful that the country may soon embrace same-sex marriage, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to do so. The optimism comes in the wake of the suicide of Jacques Picoux, a gay professor at the National Taiwan University. Picoux’s story is heartbreakingly familiar. He and his long-term partner, Tseng Ching-chao, were living together but following his death, Picoux was not given the same legal recognition in relation to inheritance and shared assets. The story has galvanized public opinion, and activists now believe that marriage equality may soon come to the country.
Malcolm Turnbull has been dealt a political blow this week after the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) withdrew its support for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. The NXT join the Greens and Labor, which all support marriage equality but oppose Turnbull’s desire for a plebiscite. Normally I would be criticising these political parties for getting in the way of a democratic vote on this issue but because of the structure of the Australian political system, the opposition parties are right to be unforgiving.
When it comes to LGBT rights India has show a different progression to other countries. In many Western countries the chronology of LGBT rights struggles have been largely focused on LGB individuals, because the three are very inter-related, before attention turned to transgender issues. However this has not been the case. Transgender rights in India are more socially acceptable the rights for same-sex couples, which is refreshing but there is still much to be done.
Homophobia, on the other hand, is still commonplace and this issue isn’t discussed enough, both domestically and by foreigners like myself. The LGBT community’s progress is aided by the work of straight allies and India’s new surrogacy bill is an opportunity to build some bridges.
The conventional wisdom surrounding elections in liberal democracies is that elections are mostly decided by economic issues. Indeed when this is not the case and issues like immigration or foreign policy dominate an election cycle, this is largely reported as news. To be perfectly honest many of these other issues are related to how it will influence the economy. When talking about immigration, for example, unless it is obvious that the person talking is outwardly racist, concerns are based on how public services will cope and any potential job losses; in other words the concerns are couched in economics. However a new study has shown that young people in Australia are less concerned with the economy than their elders.
Italy is to take a step towards LGBT equality as it was announced that legislation legalising civil unions for same-sex couples is expected to be passed in the Chamber of Deputies. Considering the historical influence of the Catholic Church in Italian politics we have to commend the success of LGBT activists in getting this measure into the Italian political discourse, however we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this is anything other than piecemeal reform. Whilst we commend the struggle of our comrades in Italy, there are some parts of this law that show that equality is still a long way off.