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Gay Marriage: A Tale of Two Parliaments

By a curious coincidence, bills to legalize gay marriage are passing through the British and French parliaments almost simultaneously.  While other countries like Spain and Portugal legalized gay marriage years ago, London and Paris are acting together on this—rather as they have done in Libya, Syria, and now Mali.  The British and French bills were presented within days of each other to the parliaments in London and Paris; the first debates started within a week.  No doubt these bills will be approved close together later this year.

The simultaneity of the procedures, however, cannot hide the radical differences between the neighboring countries in the debate.  In France, gay marriage is being promoted by a newly elected Socialist president with a comfortable Socialist majority in parliament.  In 1999, the last Socialist government in France undertook a similar move when it introduced civil partnerships.  (In theory, these were intended for same-sex couples; in fact, 96 percent of them are concluded between persons of the opposite sex.)  Then as now, the proposed measure is vehemently opposed—as one would expect—by the political right.

In Britain, by contrast, the normal rules of left-right politics have been inverted.  Gay marriage is being forced onto the statute book by a Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, who has said...

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