Carolyn
Autostraddle

Conservative British prime minister David Cameron has comeout in support of gay marriage. In the United States and Canada this would bean earth-shattering contradiction. But, in Cameron’s view, it makes perfectsense.

At a Conservative Party convention in Manchester onWednesday, Cameron told an audience of supporters that he supported thecommitment of marriage, regardless of who that marriage is between:

“I once stood before a Conservative conference and said itshouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a woman anda woman, or a man and another man. You applauded me for that. Five years on,we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality,but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in theties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other andsupport each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being aConservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

DAVID CAMERON AT PRIDE 2010 VIA REUTERS

Cameron’s government has also announced it is consulting onintroducing same-sex marriage legislation before 2015 (the year of the nextgeneral election). Specifically, the consultation is about how to implement gaymarriage, and not about whether or not it’s a good idea.

Some MPs and religious figures are not pleased about this.According to the Daily Telegraph, changing the legal definition might lead toministerial resignations. Tory MP Gerald Howarth said that gay marriage was amatter of “conscience” and that conservative party whips should not try to getconservative MPs to vote for it. He also played the “some of my friends are gayso it’s OK if I don’t like gay marriage” card:

“Some of my best friends are in civil partnerships, which isfine, but I think it would be a step too far to suggest that this is marriage.I take the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That iswhat Christian marriage is about.”

Cameron has also been criticized by members of the religiouscommunity. Kieran Conry, the Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton,supporting marriage is good, but supporting gay marriage is not:

“I think the Church will have to do something. We can’t justlet this slide by and say we are not interested. It is the question ofprotecting the particular, specific institution of marriage and its specificcharacter as the permanent union of a man and a woman who would then bring uptheir own children.”

According to Pink News, the Catholic Church and the Churchof England are expected to oppose the legislation.

To make sweeping and only mostly accurate generalizations,in the United States and (to a lesser extent) in Canada, conservativesemphasize the gay part of gay marriage, and oppose it. Cameron emphasizes themarriage part of gay marriage, and supports it. And conservative religiousgroups are pro-marriage, but only straight marriage, across the board.

Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow talked about feelingconflicted about gay marriage — that gay alternative ways of recognizingrelationships are valuable, and risk being changed or lost when incorporatedinto the mainstream institution of marriage.

The gay marriage debate, across the board, is still verymuch about gay rights: straight people can get married, so gay people should beable to. But at the same time, Cameron’s and Maddow’s comments raise aninteresting point. There is, after all, a reason that ads like this one arefunny:

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