“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
― Benjamin Franklin..
.....I wonder what one of America's Founding Fathers and Philosopher Benjamin Franklin would make of the Supreme Court in the USA today taking a long hard critical look at the untenable Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA),and its validity in the Constitution. A Landmark decision to strike down the 1996 Act, which denies benefits to single-sex couples, seems imminent. Franklin, I believe, would approve. For me, with a passion for Human Rights Legislation in England, and the explosion of European Law over-riding British Law in Human Rights, I thought a short essay on the contrasting positions on both sides of the chanel is appropriate. With Franklin's timeless quote in mind and slipping out of the first person and into the third, here it is…
….Recently, the British House of Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill by a majority of 400 to 175, a clear majority of 225 sitting members of Parliament. The Prime Minister David Cameron described the result as an "important step forward that strengthens society". Junior Justice Minister Helen Grant commented that the legislation was a major step forward for equality and justice. Of the dissension to the vote, she commented "We do differ at times, we have squabbles. We are like any other family".
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (Lib Dem Coalition) put it in a stronger context He said: "I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain.. Tonight's vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favour of equal marriage.
No matter who you are and who you love, we are all equal. Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are of the same sex."
Members of Parliament were given a free vote on the Bill, which means that they were not ordered to vote either way by their Parties. In short, it was democracy at its finest.
The voice of the opposition was equally strong and supportive. Opposition leader Ed Miliband said: "This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships, whoever you love".
Across the board and across the main political spectrum in England, the support for Equality in Marriage is gaining strength, firmly embedded in love and respect, and set to be brought into mainstream law with the full benefits and support that the state can provide.
This has happened in one of the most advanced legal systems in the world. From early Saxon Law, through the steady influx of Common Law with the Norman Conquest, the dramatic legal trials and developments of the Middle Ages, to the avalanche of the new millennium of ground-breaking Human Rights Legislation from Europe touching every corner of life in Britain, the right decisions are being made. Not based on fear, prejudice, tangential agendas, or other disparate factors, but purely on the rule of law, the fundamental and decent concept of equality for all, underpinned by love and family values. It is civilization, with all it’s flaws and uncertainties, fears and hopes, triumphing over discrimination and inherent unfairness.
The Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill, would enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, where a religious institution had formally consented, in England and Wales. It would also allow couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage.
The Government Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller told Members of Parliament: "What marriage offers us all is a lifelong partner to share our journey; a loving stable relationship to strengthen us and a mutual support throughout our lives"
"I believe this is something that should be embraced by more couples. The depth of feeling, love and commitment is no different between same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples.". Mrs Miller argued that marriage had evolved over time and rejected the claim that there was no need for same-sex marriages because same-sex couples can already have a civil partnership. "A legal partnership is not perceived in the same way and does not have the same promises of responsibility and commitment as marriage," she said. "All couples who enter a lifelong commitment together should be able to call it marriage."
She acknowledged the concerns of religious groups about the plans but said there need not be a choice "between religious belief and fairness for same sex couples".
American Law is often influenced by legal decisions in England. This relationship.dates back to 1789. and the American Bill of Rights. One of the earliest documents used in drafting the American Bill of Rights was the 1689 English Bill or Rights, with its nod to the Magna Carta of 1215. The Bill is one of the fundamental documents of English Constitutional Law. The English Bill of Rights differed substantially in form and intent from the American Bill of Rights, because it was intended to address the rights of citizens as represented by Parliament and the Crown. However, some of its basic tenets were adopted and extended by the U.S. Bill of Rights.
We pray that the Supreme Court of the United States of America are mindful of the ongoing and progressive developments in English Law this year in the Equality of Marriage, and place it in the context of the deep roots that English Law has in American Legal History, and that they reach the proper and right decisions in their current sittings on Equality and the Constitutional Right to Wed.. A Landmark decision seems imminent, and reading the Tea Leaves, there seems to be great hope that the right decision will be made.
Trevor Taylor LLB (Hons).
Trevor is an Honours graduate in English Law with a particular interest in Human Rights legislation, both very personally and academically. His In-laws in South Africa, Brian and Di Bishop MPC were leading civil rights and anti-apartheid activists. Their family home in Cape Town was tear-gassed, cars set alight, phones tapped by the Security Police under the Apartheid Regime. They received many death threats related to their work. They played a major role both with the Black Sash and the tracing of missing detainees imprisoned under State Security Laws. It was against this marital family background while working in South Africa that Trevor was inspired to continue his studies in English and European Law and emerging Human Rights legislation on his return to England in the 1990’s.
Trevor is a Content Editor with OM Times Magazine.