In many ways 2018 could be a titanic year for LGBT rights and knowing where advances could be made can be a cause for spurring on activists on the ground and increasing the international attention paid to these struggles. In the first article on this subject, I looked at four countries that could see significant progress made in the coming year. These four were examples of nation-states where I would be actively surprised if something substantial didn’t happen in the next 12 months. The four countries at the focus of this article are still noteworthy, but would require a bigger push by campaigners and activists. This distinction in no way means that the follow countries are out of reach in 2018 as anti-LGBT attitudes are softening and the prospects for equality have never been better. In each instance there is either increasing public support for LGBT equality but an absence of political or new policy-makers are coming to the fore that would be sympathetic to a pro-equality agenda. Sustained international pressure could both force legislators into action and provide much needed solidarity to those activists on the ground. Continue reading →
Despite some alarming trends of world politics in the last year or so, such as ongoing religious extremism and the rise of the far-right, there is some cause of optimism going into the next 12 months. The LGBT rights movement around the world went from strength to strength in 2017 and 2018 has the potential to be another landmark year in the struggle for liberation. Activists across the globe have been agitating for a number of years and the fruits of their labour are close to be being realised in the weeks and months ahead. But what is especially noteworthy about the political contexts of their potential success is that many are in less developed countries and/or are quite quite socially conservative in other areas. 2018 could therefore be the year when social conservatives in all corners of the world are markedly less hostile to LGBT people. In this first article, I’ll be looking at countries where I believe the cause of equality is almost certain to gain ground.
The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that existing laws making provision for civil partnerships and civil marriages violate non-discrimination rules. As a consequence same-sex couples have been permitted to get married and heterosexual couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships. The court case was brought by a lesbian couple who had been prohibited from entering into a same-sex marriage, however the Supreme Court ruled that the distinction between civil unions and marriages couldn’t be legally upheld. According to Reuters, the court said in its ruling “people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations, in which it is not relevant”. The ruling will allow for same-sex marriages to take place from 2019.
Australia will become the latest country to legalise same-sex marriage after the country voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding postal vote to back the move. The turnout was a remarkable 79.5% and found that, of these around 12.7 million people, 61.6% backed equal marriage and only 38.4% voting against. Although the plebiscite won’t change the law in and of itself, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants to change the law by Christmas but as others have pointed out Turnbull has previously been less clear on the timeline for legalisation. Although there should be time for celebrating a big step forward, we must not take our eyes off the ball as full equality is still a long way off.
One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.
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.
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.