Following on from earlier posts, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has publicly called for same-sex marriage in the UK. This may reflect, in part, the particular legal conditions in the UK, civil partnership being more or less identical in effects to marriage. Therefore the logic for maintaining the distinction, as noted in an earlier post, is weak to vanishing point. Even Prime Ministers can no longer stand over the distinction.

Nonetheless, the fact that a Prime Minister, a Conservative one no less, is willing publicly at his party conference to make such a pronouncement speaks volumes. It is particularly noteworthy given that this was the same party that sponsored the notorious section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988

I have argued elsewhere that this trend in favour of same-sex marriage reflects as much a conservatisation of gay discourses as a liberalisation of straight sentiment. Marriage, after all, involves the acceptance of serious mutual inter-personal obligations that are a far cry from the original liberationist views of early gay campaigners.

Indeed, a key factor in Mr. Cameron's support for gay marriage is the conservatising effect it will have. Far from being a trojan horse of free-spirited liberal values, same-sex marriage represents, Mr. Cameron argues, an endorsement of Conservative values:

And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.
There is a hint here of Mr. Cameron's Big Society - less emphasis on state support for individuals, and more support for private, local and community ties, in this case for the most intimate of all such commitments - marriage.


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