Gay marriage: let them wed | The Economist

ILGA will share articles from The Economist ahead of its Pride and Prejudice event throughout February 2016. Excerpts shared with kind permission of the publisher.

Published on The Economist on January 4, 1996

The Economist advocated for same-sex marriage in a cover story published nearly 20 years ago in 1996. Such a push for LGBT tolerance was rare at the time; no government in the world had yet acknowledged the right of gay people to wed, and the topic was not part of the mainstream political agenda anywhere. Here is how our editors made the case for it then.

MARRIAGE may be for the ages—but it changes by the year. And never, perhaps, has it changed as quickly as since the 1960s. In western law, wives are now equal rather than subordinate partners; interracial marriage is now widely accepted both in statute and in society; marital failure itself, rather than the fault of one partner, may be grounds for a split. With change, alas, has come strain. In the 25 years from 1960, divorce rates soared throughout the west—more than sextupled in Britain, where divorce appears inevitable for the world’s most celebrated marriage, that of Charles and Diana Windsor. Struggling to keep law apace with reality, Britain’s Tory government is even now advancing another marriage reform, seeking, on the whole sensibly, to make quick or impulsive divorce harder but no-fault divorce easier.

That, however, is not the kind of reform which some decidedly un-Tory people are seeking—and have begun to achieve. Denmark, Norway and Sweden now allow homosexual partners to register with the state and to claim many (though not all) of the prerogatives of marriage. The Dutch are moving in the same direction. In France and Belgium, cities and local governments have begun recognising gay partnerships. And, in the American state of Hawaii, a court case may legalise homosexual marriage itself.

As of today, however, there is no country which gives homosexuals the full right of marriage. And that is what gay activists in more and more places are seeking. Marriage, one might think, is in turbulent enough waters already. Can gay marriage be a good idea—now?

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ILGA supports Pride and Prejudice, a global initiative organised by The Economist Events that will catalyse fresh debate on the economic and human costs of discrimination against the LGBTI community. The 24-hour event taking place on March 3rd will begin in Hong Kong, continue in London and end in New York. Find out more about Pride and Prejudice here.