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Topics In the News
International Implications of President Obama's Endorsement of Marriage Equality
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/12/12
Last updated on: 05/12/12
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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key addresses the crowd at the Big Gay Out festival in Auckland.

President Obama's endorsement of marriage equality may have international repercussions. While he has not previously led on the issue, the President's historic statement of his personal commitment to equality will inevitably influence the debate on same-sex marriage in other countries.

As Peter Tatchell points out in an op-ed in Great Britain's The Guardian, with his endorsement President Obama joins British Prime Minister David Cameron and the newly-elected French President Francois Hollande in supporting same-sex marriage and adds to the "growing momentum to end the ban on gay marriage in more and more countries, from Cuba to Finland, Uruguay, Nepal, Denmark, Brazil, Australia and Colombia."

Tatchell argues that Obama's support "will boost the worldwide campaign for marriage equality and, through media reporting of his support, raise awareness of gay marriage among billions of people in every corner of the globe. Even people living under tyrannical, homophobic regimes will hear the message of gay equality."

The United States has not led on the issue of marriage equality--that honor belongs to the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Iceland, Argentina, Norway, and Sweden, who will soon be joined by Denmark--but the President's endorsement may well influence the marriage consultations underway in Great Britain and Australia.

It may also lead to concrete initiatives in New Zealand and Costa Rica, where in light of the President's endorsement officials have indicated an openness to consider same-sex marriage.

As Claire Trevett and Kate Shuttleworth report in the New Zealand Herald, in response to the news of Obama's statement Prime Minister John Key declared that he has changed his position on the issue and is not opposed to same-sex marriage.

He added that gay marriage was not part of his National Party center-right government's agenda, but observed that a private member's bill might be considered by Parliament.

New Zealand, like the U.K., offers same-sex couples civil unions that provide the same legal rights and responsibilities as marriage.

Prime Minister Key said in 2008 that he saw no need to go further than civil unions.

In contrast, the opposition Labour Party supports marriage equality. Labour's justice spokesman, Charles Chauvel, observed that "It was Labour policy in the last election to support the right of same-sex couples to marry."

"I think the great thing about the President's announcement is that it helps to highlight the issue of equality and keep it on the agenda and more and more New Zealanders are saying it's a no-brainer, people should have these rights," Mr Chauvel said.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said she would support same-sex marriage, as individuals and whanau had the right to choose for themselves whether to marry.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said "it is about time that the President took a strong stand in favour of the community and their right to be treated equally."

She said the Green Party supported same-sex marriage in New Zealand and had argued for it when the Civil Union Bill was being passed.

"Our policy is that same legal rights and responsibilities should apply to all couples regardless of whether that couple is gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual," she said.

A 2011 Research New Zealand poll found that 60% of New Zealanders were in favor of marriage equality and 34% opposed.

Edmund Broch reports in PinkNews that the vice presidents of Costa Rica, Alfio Piva and Luis Liberman, have declared that gay couples deserve the same rights as heterosexuals, though they stopped short of endorsing equal marriage.

They said gay people should have the same rights on inheritance, social security, and loan applications.

A glbtq-rights group, Centre for Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (CIPAC), has introduced a constitutional motion to bring forth marriage equality, as Article 14 of the Family Code forbids it.

Unlike Uruguay and Colombia, Costa Rica does not offer gay and lesbian couples civil partnerships.

Costa Rica is known for its tolerance toward glbtq people, but the pressures of conservatives and the Catholic hierarchy have stalled legislative attempts to provide equal rights to its glbtq citizens.

In the video below, Prime Minister Key addresses the crowd at New Zealand's 2012 Big Gay Out celebration in Auckland.

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