New Mexico has become the 17th US State to legalise same-sex marriage.
The court unanimously held that because “same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional.”
The acknowledgement of LGBT people as a minority vulnerable to abuse indicates that future anti-LGBT laws will be given greater scrutiny.
The law previously only allowed individuals and straight married couples to adopt children in Northern Ireland. This meant that gay and lesbian people could apply to adopt as an individual but same-sex couples, including those in committed civil partnerships, could not.
Health Minister Edwin Poots had previously campaigned against adoption rights for gay and unmarried couples. His most recent challenge in June 2013 was dismissed by the UK Supreme Court. A petition to have him removed from his post has gathered over 10,000 signatures on Avaaz.org
Research carried out by the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research found that children of gay and lesbian parents experience the same quality of life as those with heterosexual parents. The study also said “there was no evidence” to suggest that children’s masculine or feminine tendencies are affected by having homosexual parents, adding weight to the widely held notion that sexuality is inherent and not learned.
Professor Susan Golombok, co-author of the report, said: “What I don’t like is when people make assumptions that a certain type of family, such as gay fathers, will be bad for children. The anxieties about the potentially negative effects for children of being placed with gay fathers seem to be, from our study, unfounded.”
The Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that because the ban was based on relationship status, it was discriminatory towards those in civil partnerships and so a breach of gay couples’ human rights. The lifting of this ban means same-sex couples will now be able to start a family in Northern Ireland via adoption.
On the 9th December 2013, the United Nations published a video to mark the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
The video focuses on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people across the world. Although showing progress on issues such as discrimination, it highlights the fact that 76 countries still criminalise same-sex relations. Unfortunately, this figure is already out of date due to India’s recent Supreme Court ruling that re-criminalised same-sex relationships, increasing the number to 77.
This also doesn’t take into account Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law, which ultimately bans the discussion of homosexuality in public and prevents LGBT support services for people under the age of 18.
The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold a 153 year-old colonial law that criminalises same-sex relationships has been seen as a setback for human rights in India. Section 377 states that same-sex relationships are an “unnatural offence” and are punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 was discriminatory and stated that gay sex between consenting adults should not be treated as a crime. This has therefore been reversed by the Supreme Court ruling today.
Chief Executive of Amnesty International, G. Ananthapadmanabhan gave the following statement: “This decision is a body-blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity. It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights.”
Geeta Pandey of BBC News reported that ‘as Justice GS Singhvi announced the order, activists and members of the gay and lesbian community present outside the court began crying and hugging each other.’
A petition against the ruling has attracted over 25,000 signatures on allout.org
The ruling has come just two days after the United Nations published a video detailing the rights of LGBT people across the world. It also highlighted the 76 countries that criminalise same-sex relations. By upholding Section 377, India has now joined these countries, increasing the total to 77 and making the video already out-of-date.
There is also a danger of setback for the fight against HIV in India. By criminalising gay sexual activity, LGBT people may no longer feel able to come forward for testing and treatment due to fear of being prosecuted. It is estimated that 2.4 million people are living with HIV in India.
Same-sex marriages will be conducted in the United Kingdom from 29th March 2014. Couples wishing to be married on this date are required to give formal notice of their intention by 13th March.
Equalities Minister Maria Miller said “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex.”
Ironically, the date also coincides with the birthday of Lord Tebbit, a conservative member of the House of Lords who is infamous for his strong opposition to LGBT rights. He voted against legislation for same-sex marriage, civil unions, gender reassignment and protection against sexual orientation discrimination.
Yet to be set is the date when couples can convert their civil partnership to marriage. However, the government have said it will be by the end of 2014.