The Guardian reports that the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone (whom I believe is from the Liberal Democrat side of the Con-Lib coalition currently in government) is announcing that the government will begin looking at reforming the inequalities between civil partnerships (the UK's version of civil unions) and civil marriage, allowing straight couples to enter into civil partnerships and gay couples to enter into civil marriages.
No information has been given on how long this process will take or when gay couples will start being able to marry, but it seems quite clear that the UK government - as well as its people and many of the religious institutions - are more than ready for marriage equality. UK, then, would become the 11th country to allow full marriage rights for gay couples, after Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.
Of course, anybody with a good understanding of the British political system should not be terribly surprised by this development. Their system has two major parties (Labour and Conservatives) and a large minor party (the Liberal Democrats), and both the Labs and the Libs support marriage equality, and the Tories said going into the 2010 election that they supported civil partnerships and would "consider" gay marriage. The parties of the United Kingdom are much more similar to one another, ideologically, than those of the US, in which there are profound differences with regards to gay rights.
In fact, while studying in London last semester I wrote a 20-page paper on these differences, which was reviewed kindly by Robert Hazell, the head of the politics department at University College and head of the Constitution Unit, which has been advising the government on constitutional reform. Incidentally, I'm currently shopping around for any publications who would be interested in looking at my thesis, so if anybody is reading this who is interested/knows someone who might be, please do let me know.
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