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 Valetta the Maltese Parliament unanimously voted to pass the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act, which prohibits gay conversion therapy. As a result of this legislation the small island nation becomes the first country in Europe to outlaw this barbaric practice. Indeed practicing medical professionals who recommend gay conversion therapy can be fined up to €10,000 and/or face up to a year in prison. Not only is this quite clearly a massive step forward for the LGBT people of Malta, but it sets an important precedent for the rest of Europe. It’s time for other European nations to act to outlaw this disgusting practice.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court of the United States has continued to make life for LGBT people in in America much better, much to the chagrin of the Christian Right. Many people had taken their eye off the fight for LGBT equality in the United State because of the legalisation of same-sex marriage in June 2015. As a result of this recent decision, a state-ban on same-sex adoption has been deemed unconstitutional and has resulted in the legalisation of adoption by gay couples in all 50 states. Obergefell v.Hodges set a precedent for treating LGBT people as equal and, although much work is still needed to bring about full equality, the direction of travel is good for the equality movement.
In terms of LGBT rights most of the media focussed on the fight to achieve equal marriage. Although in many countries around the world this is now the case, there are many places that still do not treat LGBT people with the same decency as heterosexual citizens. Thankfully the activists and campaigners have carried on the fight without large media coverage, and there is progress to report from Portugal, a country that had legalised same-sex marriage in 2010.