The G8/G20 Youth Foreign Affairs Committee met Tuesday in the first day of weeklong discussions in Washington, D.C. Talks moved swiftly past issues of women’s rights, only to break down when they came to gay rights: namely, gay marriage.
There was consensus support for legal, civil-union partnerships, and an agreement on an anti-discrimination clause was reached, but communication failed when the conversation turned to the semantics of marriage equality. Canadian Minister, Andrea Sarkic, stood parallel to national, Canadian policy in her support of same-sex marriage.
“My government legalized gay marriage in 2005,” said Sarkic. “At the end of the day it comes down to freedom of speech, human rights, rule of law. [It’s] not just about the relationships.”
American Minister, Alex Bronzo, and German Minister, Esther Marie Franke, also supported the notion of gay marriage. Franke said it would be artificial to support an anti-discrimination mandate and at the same time oppose gay marriage. Bronzo alluded to U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent public approval of gay marriage.
French Minister, Raluca Schumacher, suggested nations adopt the French Civil Solidarity Pact model that entered French law in 1999: wherein gay or straight couples enter a contracted, civil union, and earn almost all of the recognitions of a legally married couple.
Japanese Minister, Nanami Kawashima, said government legislation shouldn’t drive social change, but that change should “stem from society, the grassroots level.” Kawashima stood by the group’s clause of non-discrimination, but would not equate that to marriage rights.
“Japan is of the stance that we have adopted a clause of non-discrimination,” said Kawashima. “Equal does not mean the same.”
Italian Minister, Carmine Finelli, described the gay marriage conflict that exists in Italy between social change and the Roman Catholic Church.
“We have a problem,” said Finelli. “We have the church. We trust in the church, and we have strong tradition.”
Finelli didn’t oppose the notion of gay marriage, but insisted politicians need to respect cultural belief systems.
Millennials are often ascribed socially liberal values, but Tuesday’s committee meeting showed that many hold strong, socially conservative feelings.
The committee struggled to reach a consensus on the topic, settling on a position that does not include the word marriage.
Talks will continue throughout the week.