Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The race for full marriage

As incredible as it may seem, Ireland may be about to adopt full gay marriage – before the United Kingdom has it.

Both countries already have civil unions, which confer all the rights of heterosexual marriage in everything but name. But the Conservative governments of both countries have come to the conclusion that this is not enough to guarantee equality under the law.

Across the channel, France – which also already has civil unions – is also preparing to make the switch to full marriage. The country’s new Socialist president Francois Hollande promised to enact gay marriage during his campaign. His rival, incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy, only promised to upgrade the existing ‘PACS’ civil unions, which only confer a handful of the rights of full marriage.

So now the race is on between these ancient foes - who is the more progressive? The government of Ireland is planning to put the issue to a public referendum next year, and polls show that it would likely pass with 73% of Irish people supporting gay marriage. This is incredible considering that the country only adopted civil unions in 2010.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Romney's 'apology for the apology' tour

Mitt Romney has arrived in London today, the first stop on a three-country tour meant to shore up his foreign policy credentials. His tour opened with a remarkably tone-deaf gaffe by a campaign staffer, who told British newspaper The Telegraph that Barack Obama cannot understand the common “Anglo-Saxon heritage” of the US and the UK.

The advisor was likely using the term in the continental European context, which refers to the free-market economic heritage of English-speaking countries. He was likely trying to make some 'Obama as Socialist' characterisation. But this definition is unknown in the English-speaking countries themselves, where the term is a seldom-used ethnic description of English descent (ie, from the Germanic tribes who settled in Southwest England). So it ended up just coming off as shockingly racist. Stephen Colbert hilariously summed up the bemused reaction of Americans to the comment.

It’s a bad start to what is a very important foreign tour for Romney. Over the next few days he will be meeting with virtually every high level politician in the UK. On Friday he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony, surely excited about the prospects for his horse-dancer in the dressage competition.

The Republican presidential candidate’s choice of three countries for this visit is highly significant. After his visit to the UK he will fly to Israel, where he will make a series of high-profile appearances. He will then finish his tour in Poland. All three are countries which the Romney campaign has accused the Obama administration of at best ignoring, and at worst insulting.