Gay Uncle Inspires British Politician to Support Marriage Equality

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor of the Exchequer, made a video for the Out4Marriage campaign inspired by his late gay uncle.

BY Julie Bolcer

May 29 2012 9:17 AM ET

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor of the Exchequer, wants Britain to enact marriage equality, including the right for religious bodies to marry same-sex couples if they choose, based on inspiration from his late gay uncle. 

Pink News UK reports on the video that Balls, the MP for Morley and Outwood, has contributed to Out4Marriage, a cross-party campaign modeled on the It Gets Better effort that seeks to change the marriage law in Britain. Balls is the most senior Labour politician to support the campaign thus far. Some of the other contributors include Home Secretary Theresa May, Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, and Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary.

“Twenty years ago my uncle came out in his 50s as gay, and he died, I’m afraid, before he and his long-term partner could have a civil partnership,” said Balls. “But actually, in our family we would have liked him to have gone further and to have got married. It’s what he would have wanted, I believe.”

In his video Balls exceeded the proposal backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, which would not allow same-sex marriage ceremonies to be held in churches or other religious buildings. According to the London Evening Standard, the shadow chancellor called for religious bodies to be able to hold such services if they choose.

“I also believe that somebody who is religious and a churchgoer, if the church community wants it in that church, I think people should be able to get married in church too,” he said. “I really hope the government will look at that proposal as well. This is something whose time has come.”

Balls’s wife, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, also made a video that echoed his point about religious freedom, according to Pink News UK. 

“People who love each other and who want to make a long-term commitment to each other should be able to get married. The state and society should value that long-term commitment and celebrate it for same-sex couples too. That’s why I support equal marriage,” she said. “But I also hope the government goes further. Religious marriages is of course a matter for individual religious institutions and churches, and no one is proposing that they should be obliged to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies, because religious freedom is important.”

“But equally, we should support those religious institutions and churches that want to hold same sex marriage ceremonies,” she said. “At the moment they’re not able to. I think that churches like the Unitarians and Quakers should be able to if they want to. That’s why I’m coming Out4Marriage.”

The Evening Standard reports that government sources said marriage equality legislation will be prepared after a consultation ends next month.

Watch the videos from Balls and Cooper below.

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