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Neil Cobb

The coalition government has begun its consultation on equal marriage for gay people in England and Wales, after announcing it is already persuaded by the arguments in favour of same-sex civil marriage. This follows the Scottish Government’s own proposals last year in which it also gave its provisional support for equal rights to civil marriage in Scotland.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” David Cameron said in a recent speech. “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

Of course, Cameron’s soundbite will feed fears that the right to marry is a retrograde step for gay people that ignores the institution’s oppressive history and assimilationist power.

For many others, though, equal marriage will be welcomed for finally challenging the symbolic inequality in relationship recognition that has persisted in the UK since the Civil Partnership Act in 2004.

That the coalition and Scottish government are both broadly in favour of equal marriage marks a significant shift in UK gay politics. In particular, the consultation positions the coalition in direct opposition to extreme religious forces, especially a virulently homophobic Catholic church.

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