England Legalizes Gay Marriage — With Support Of All Major Parties

In the U.S., Republican governors are fighting tooth and nail to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal. On the other hand, England just legalized gay marriage nationwide — and did so non-controversially, with the support of all three major parties in the governing coalition. It now joins sixteen other countries that offer equal marriage rights to all citizens.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” Prime Minister David Cameron said back in 2011. “I support gay marriage because I’m a conservative.”

The politics of gay marriage are markedly different in the U.K. than in America. For example, there are no less than 12 openly gay members of Parliament in the Conservative Party, which is the rough English equivalent of the GOP. The country banned gay marriage in 1988, but since 2004, gay couples in England have enjoyed most of the same marriage rights as their straight counterparts without the “marriage” label. In recent years, support grew for overturning the 1988 ban; leaders from the Conservative, Labor, and Liberal Democratic parties all rallied in support of the proposal, and it passed Parliament in July.

That said, it’s worth noting that Cameron’s embrace of gay marriage is part of a larger political strategy advance other conservative policies. He’s been outspoken in his desire to shed the Conservative Party’s label as the “nasty party,” and by supporting liberal social legislation, he’s giving himself political cover to pursue more conservative economic policies.

“We lost three elections, in 1997, 2001, and 2005,” said Margot James, an openly gay Conservative lawmaker, in explaining the shift in the party’s position on the issue. “I think Republicans could learn a lot from us in how to appeal to the center, without whose votes a party cannot hope to win.”

As a token concession, the new law won’t allow the Church of England, which vehemently opposes gay marriage, to perform gay marriages.