Marriage equality: New Zealand, the West & Lebanon

Contrary to the virally spread news, marriage equality has not been fully attained today in New Zealand. A bill for legalisation was passed by Parliament (77 votes to 44) and awaits the formality of Royal Assent. If approved, same-sex marriage licenses would likely start being issues in August 2013.

This will make New Zealand the 12th country with marriage equality. The Netherlands was the first, in 2001, and it was later joined by Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal and Denmark. Argentina, Canada and South Africa are the three non-European countries in the group. Uruguay will be next after the president signs an amended bill that has been passed by the Chamber of Deputies on April 10 2013 (71 votes to 21).

Eyes are on the following countries: Andorra, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Nepal, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. In those countries the legal process has been initiated but equality is yet to be attained. Bills ensuring legal marriage rights to all citizens equally have been proposed, are pending, or have passed at least one legislative house.

In the United States of America, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in only nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia. Only 16% of the U.S. population live on these areas. Actually 39 states prohibit same-sex marriage (9 by statute and 30 in their constitutions). Even in states where marriage is legal for all, same-sex marriages are still mot federally recognized. The Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), enacted in 1996, prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and allows each state to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. One section of DOMA has been found unconstitutional in eight federal courts. The issue is currently pending review by the Supreme Court.

In Lebanon, any talk about same-sex marriage is premature. We are yet to attain our rights to civil marriage. Yes. It’s sadly true. Even though Lebanon is a civil law country, matters related to personal status (heritage, marriage, divorce, etc.) are governed by a separate set of laws designed for each sectarian community: Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish. There is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities. In some sects, even divorce is illegal. This adds more injustice and inequality among citizens of the same nation. Citizens with no belief system, those who seek inter-faith marriages or those who prefer the security of a civil marriage are denied their basic rights.

Categories: Human Rights

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