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Friday, December 18, 2009

British Prime Minister Calls for Europe-Wide Gay Family Rights

by Kilian Melloy, Edge - Boston, MA

Continuing in his efforts to reach out to Britain’s GLBT community, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for the adoption of civil unions for gay and lesbian families across all of Europe.

Thirteen European nations already offer civil unions or some similar option for same-sex couples; in addition to Britain, Germany and France provide many of the same rights, obligations, and protections to gay and lesbian families as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals.

Additionally, in a handful of nations--Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden among them--full-fledged marriage equality is the law of the land. Portugal is contemplating marriage equality, and Ireland is moving toward civil unions. However, in a number of Eastern European nations, marriage equality is banned as a matter of constitutional law.

Brown would like to see protections for gay and lesbian families extended into Eastern European countries as well, a Dec. 17 story said. Several Eastern European nations--Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary--offer civil unions, although in many Eastern European countries anti-gay prejudices still linger and enshrined in law.

With the recent passage of civil unions legislation in Austria, which is a conservative Catholic nation, equality advocates in other Catholic countries such as Poland have a precedent to cite as they argue for their rights, noted a Dec. 17 Inter-Press Service article. But homophobia runs deep in some Eastern European societies, the article noted: Poland’s president, Lech Kazcynski, has said that gays would bring about the end of the world, and the mayor of Moscow, Yuriy Luzkhov, declared that gays were "satanic" and banned a Pride parade in the city. Pride events in Russia and in Poland have been met with violence by anti-gay protesters; the Ukraine has barred Pride events altogether.

Brown recognized that his grand vision for equality across Europe would not be easy to achieve, but he said that his government was attempting to broker arrangements in which British civil unions would be honored everywhere in Europe. "I’m fighting to get all the countries in Europe to recognize civil partnerships carried out in Britain," said Brown, adding, "We want countries where that hasn’t been the case--especially in eastern Europe--to recognize them.

"Of course it will be tough," Brown noted, "and will take many years, but that has never ever been a good reason not to fight."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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