Queen signs bill legalising gay marriage in England and Wales

Cayman net News

Queen Elizabeth the II gave royal assent to a bill that will give gays, lesbians, bi and trans people the right to marry in England and Wales. The bill was signed this past Wednesday, and was approved earlier this week by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords

This means that under the new law, gays will be able to join together in civil ceremonies or in church services. Prime Minister David Cameron backed the bill, which was opposed by many in his own Conservative Party. Liberal Democrats and Labour Party officials also supported the measure.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said of the bill, after it passed both houses of Parliament: “The title of this bill might be ‘marriage,’ but its fabric is about freedom and respect. Freedom to marry regardless of sexuality or gender, but also freedom to believe that marriage should be of one man and one woman, and not be marginalised,” Reuters reported.

Prior to the law, England allowed civil partnerships for gays, but gay activists said that wasn’t good enough — that it created the image that gays were somehow inferior to heterosexuals.

While LGBT people will be able to marry in 2014 in England and Wales, the Queen is also the Head of the Commonwealth where gays and lesbians are regularly persecuted, arrested, murdered, and executed in 36 countries of the 54 member nations.

“While this is an incredible moment for England, it is time for the government of England to be more outspoken about anti-gay violence happening in the Commonwealth, said Andre Banks, Executive Director and Co-Founder of All Out. “Many of the laws that persecute gays and lesbians are a direct result of old colonial-era laws inherited from England. In places like Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, and 36 Commonwealth nations, gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people aren’t fighting for marriage, they are fighting for their lives.”

In Cameroon, the punishment for being gay or lesbian, or even looking gay or lesbian, can be up to 10 years. Often the accused are jailed without even facing trial.

In Uganda, gays and lesbians are continually under the threat of a bill that would punish gays and lesbians with the death penalty.

In Nigeria, not only is it a crime to be gay or lesbian, but anyone who attends a marriage ceremony between two men or two women could face up to 10 years in prison if they do not turn the couple in. Religious leaders who perform these ceremonies are also under threat of arrest.

Gay Jamaicans are threatened by a law that punishes same gender relationships. Homophobic and transphobic attacks make it incredibly difficult for any LGBT people to live in Jamaica.

In May, the Commonwealth adopted a new charter. The 54 member nations agreed, “We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity were not explicitly mentioned in the new charter, but some have argued that ‘other grounds’ was a politically expedient way to include LGBT people in the new charter.

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