The United Kingdom has added another “win” to its social-equality column. Lawmakers in the House of Commons have approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage that applies to England and Scotland. The measure permits same-sex couples to convert their civil partnerships to traditional marriages, and grants married transgender citizens’ legal recognition without altering their marriage certificate.
For the global LGBT community, the UK’s progressive stance is a step toward fairness. However, all residents of the UK aren’t as thrilled at this prospect. The bill passed on a 400-175 vote, which confirms a widespread report of a split within Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party over the issue. The Church of England is also opposed to the legislation, which gives religious bodies an option to decline to perform same-sex ceremonies.
But above the UK’s internal rumblings about the legislation is the fact that the nation is advancing rights for same-sex couples while the United States is still in tumult. Though America is considered a global superpower, our lagging of social progress in civil rights has long-been an issue that must be addressed.
In Mary L. Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, she recounts American politics in the dawn of the Cold War and our pursuit of “superpower” status. One of the issues that could’ve prevented America from conquering communism was racial segregation and violence toward minorities. The world’s newspapers used columns to react to these atrocities, which forced the United States to begin passing civil rights legislation. History will repeat itself if America does not see the value in extending the rights of marriage to all. As more countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, and Norway begin to lift restricts on same-sex love, the United States’ lack of progress is visible.
President Obama has affirmed his support for same-sex marriage. Bills have passed in Washington, D.C., and nine other states have legalized it. But according to the Pew Research Center, 30 states have banned same-sex marriage or limited it to heterosexual couples. Despite our triumphs on civil rights, there is still work to be done to meet the standards of other nations like the United Kingdom.
If America aims to lead the world, equality should be a perpetual goal that we collectively stride toward. The United Kingdom’s decision should fuel us to seek similar measures in our state legislatures.