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UK government won’t speak out for equal marriage in Australia

Nick Duffy September 14, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 01: British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (R) arrive at Horse Guards Parade for the Official Ceremonial Welcome for the Colombian State Visit on November 1, 2016 in London, England. The President of the Republic of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos are paying their first State Visit to the UK as official guests of Queen Elizabeth. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Despite pledging to champion LGBT rights around the world, the UK government has insisted it will not support equal marriage in Australia.

The Commonwealth country is currently holding a public postal vote on whether to allow couples of the same sex to get married.

The UK Foreign Office has previously vowed to champion LGBT rights around the world, and given the UK’s close historical ties with Australia, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was asked about whether same-sex marriage has been discussed with his Australian counterpart.

However, a junior FCO minister quietly confirmed this week that the UK government would not be speaking out in favour of equality in Australia.

Tory minister Mark Field said: “The question of whether same-sex marriage should be legalised in Australia is a matter for the Australian people to decide.”

He insisted: “With the exception of marriage, LGBT people in Australia have the same rights and protections as anyone else.”

Equal marriage activists in Australia (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The claim that gay couples have “the same rights and protections as anyone else” is slightly bizarre, given the ban on same-sex marriage prevents full country-wide legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families, impacting a number of issues.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had vowed to champion LGBT rights around the world in a speech just two months ago.

In that speech Mr Johnson vowed to support equality even though “it might even cause offence in some places”.

Speaking to PinkNews last year, then-Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay said the UK bore extra responsibility to speak up for equality in the Commonwealth due to its record of instilling homophobic values.

She said: “We have a special place in one way because we started the Commonwealth and it can be a disadvantage because then countries say ‘you would say that wouldn’t you because you think you can tell us what to do’, so we have to bear that in mind.

“We are one voice, we are not the main voice or the only voice, but (..) I think it’s important to raise these issues.

“When I can meet ministers from the Commonwealth, I say I would like to raise issues about diversity to people.”

The claim is also strange given UK Prime Minister Theresa May was happy enough speaking up for equal marriage in Northern Ireland, despite the region’s autonomous government.

Writing for PinkNews earlier this year, Mrs May said: “I want all British citizens to enjoy the fullest freedoms and protections. That includes equal marriage – because marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexuality.

While that is a matter for the devolved government of Northern Ireland, I will continue to make my position clear – that LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as people across the rest of the UK.”

The Conservative Party manifesto said: “We believe Britain should play an active, leading role in the world.

“Not because it is our right or inheritance, but because our leadership in the world is the surest way to defend and advance the interests of the British people, and to extend around the world those values that we believe to be right.”

More: Australia, Australia, equal marriage, Gay, LGBT, plebiscite, same sex marriage, UK, vote

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