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British House of Commons approves same-sex marriage bill

400-175 vote came after hours-long debate in the House of Commons

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Great Britain, parliament, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Takasunrise0921 via Wikimedia Commons)

The British House of Commons on Tuesday approved a proposal that would allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales.

The 400-175 vote came after an hours-long debate on the measure.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller stressed the bill “is about fairness.” She said it also protects religious freedom and registrars would receive the same protections under the law.

The European Court of Human Rights last month said religious beliefs cannot justify discrimination against same-sex couples. A registrar who said the Borough of Islington outside London unfairly disciplined her because she refused to officiate civil partnerships for same-sex couples after the United Kingdom’s civil partnership law took effect in 2005 is among the two British Christians who claimed their employers unfairly discriminated against them because of their opposition to homosexuality and relationship recognition for gays and lesbians.

Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Yvette Cooper noted President Obama’s support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

“Parliament shouldn’t stop people getting married simply because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex,” she said.

Gay MP Stephen Gilbert, who represents St. Austell and Newquay in Cornwall, highlighted the struggles he said he faced when coming out as he spoke in support of the proposal that he described as “historic legislation.”

“We have a come a long way in a short space of time,” Gilbert said. “But it is absolutely right in my view that the House take the next step and deliver full equality to gay men and lesbians in this country.”

MP Nadine Dorries, who represents portions of Bedfordshire, said the bill “actually highlights the inequalities that are going to be there.”

“Marriage is based on the definition of sex,” she said.

The vote took place three days after French lawmakers approved an amendment to a same-sex marriage bill that defines marriage as between two people of the opposite or same sex. Legislators continue to debate the proposal that would extend both marriage and adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are among the European countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. Scottish lawmakers in the coming months are also expected to consider a similar measure.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall, gay news, Washington Blade

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill (Photo courtesy of Stonewall)

“As the last piece of the legislative jigsaw providing equality for gay people in Britain, this is a truly historic step forward,” Ben Summerskill, executive of the LGBT advocacy group Stonewall said. “We’re absolutely delighted that MPs have demonstrated so overwhelmingly that they’re in touch with the twenty-first century.”

Summerskill said he expects “a tough battle” in the House of Lords on the same-sex marriage bill, but he remains optimistic about the measure’s prospects. Prime Minister David Cameron also supports the proposal.

“The size of the Commons majority seen tonight — much larger than for most normal government business — will make it very difficult for peers to suggest that the bill should be rejected,” Summerskill said.

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Europe

Switzerland marriage equality law takes effect

Voters last September overwhelmingly approved ‘Marriage for All’ law

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(Public domain photo)

A law that allows same-sex couples to legally marry in Switzerland took effect on Friday.

Swiss voters last September voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “Marriage for All” law.

Maria von Känel of Regenbogenfamilien (Rainbow Families) on Friday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her and her wife with a marriage license and a message that said “the celebrations can begin.”

Neighboring Austria, Germany and France are among the European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Scott Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who is openly gay, is married to Tim Gill.

“Today we celebrate marriage for all,” tweeted the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Friday. “Congratulations to Switzerland on this historic day.”

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Russia

Brittney Griner trial begins in Moscow

WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison

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(Screenshot courtesy of Russian television)

The trial of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner began on Friday in Moscow.

Russian media reports indicate authorities initially did not allow journalists into the court room, but two reporters were eventually able to enter. The Washington Post reported U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other American diplomats were present.

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department later determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this week said he has also spoken with her.

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved a resolution that called upon Russia to immediately release her.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

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Caribbean

Final vote on new Cuba family code expected in September

Same-sex couples poised to receive marriage, adoption rights

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba is reporting a final referendum on whether the final draft of a new family code that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples will take place in September.

Tremenda Nota on June 23 reported a specific date for the referendum has not been announced, but it quoted comments President Miguel Díaz-Canel made the day before during a meeting of the commission that has written the draft. 

“We are entering a decisive stage,” said Díaz-Canel, according to Tremenda Nota. “We are going to need all the support that we need to ensure the emancipatory principles of equality and inclusion that the family code defends are actually approved.”

The National Assembly late last year approved the draft family code. 

A “popular consultation” ended on April 30. Tremenda Nota reported the last of the family code’s 25 drafts was presented to Díaz-Canel and other officials on June 6.

Díaz Canel and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, are among those who publicly support marriage equality. Cuban voters in 2019 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution, but the government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment before the referendum on it sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ and intersex activists.

Efforts to implement the new family code are taking place against the backdrop of continued persecution of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the country’s government.

Tremenda Nota Editor Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest last month.

Reports indicate Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman who was arrested during a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, on Wednesday received a 14-year prison sentence. 

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota’s original story is here.

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