The Equal Love campaign have criticised the Labour Party conference for failing to hold a discussion or a vote on giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage. The conference took place this week in Liverpool.
The criticism follows a discussion on same-sex marriage at the Liberal Democrats' conference last week. The Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone, promised that same-sex civil marriage would be legally recognised in England and Wales by 2105.
Equal Love said that Labour's decision not to debate the issue left the party trailing behind the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, who have both passed resolutions supporting same-sex marriage. The campaign's co-ordinator, Peter Tatchell, described Labour's failure to back marriage equality as “a big disappointment”. He compared Labour to the Conservatives, who also have no official policy on the issue.
“It's catch-up time for Labour,” said Tatchell, pointing out that both the Unison and GMB unions have voted to support same-sex marriage.
Tatchell continued, "Ed Miliband personally supports same-sex marriage, although he is silent about lifting the ban on civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. I'd be surprised if a majority of Labour members and MPs did not support repealing these discriminatory laws. So, why no conference vote and no official policy?”.
While Equal Love have welcomed the Liberal Democrats' support for marriage equality, they gave a critical response to Featherstone's promise of same-sex civil marriage by 2015.
They oppose Featherstone's decision to rule out same-sex religious marriage and mixed-sex civil partnerships, ahead of a consultation on marriage law beginning next year. They have also expressed disappointment at the slow time scale.
The Scottish government have recently begun their own consultation on the issue, emphasising that they are inclined to legislate in favour of same-sex marriage. Faith groups in Scotland have given a wide range of reactions to the news.
The Equal Love campaign is backing eight British couples - four same-sex and four mixed-sex – who earlier this year filed a joint legal application to the European Court of Human Rights, seeking to overturn the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and mixed-sex civil partnerships. One of the same-sex couples includes Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.