Uniting two people, dividing a continent

Left-wing lawmakers stomp on conservative toes with gay marriage bill

Mexico City lawmakers made a leap yesterday to become the first city in Latin America to allow gay marriage, passing a bill that is widely expected to be signed into law by the leftist mayor, Marcelo Ebrard, of the Democratic Revolution Party.

However, the left may be going a little too far for the liking of strongly conservative and Roman Catholic Mexico, not to mention the whole of Latin America. The bill, although it has given hope to liberals across the continent, threatens to pull the two sides further apart.

The assembly has already stepped on conservatives' toes with a number of unpopular decisions, including legalising abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That decision was followed by a backlash, with the majority of Mexico's other 32 states enacting legislation stating life begins at conception. Roughly 90 per cent of Mexico's 108 million-strong population identify themselves as Catholic.

Moreover, while certain cities in South America do permit same-sex civil unions, the halting of possibly the continent's most controversial marriage earlier this month is a reminder that there is only so much that Latin Americans are willing to accept.

The Argentinians Alex Freyre and José Maria di Bello were to be married on 1 December after they were granted a marriage licence by a city court judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional for civil law to stipulate that a marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. The ruling, which was greeted with furious debate in the media and hostile posters across Buenos Aires, was halted by another judge.

Despite the murmurs of discontent, it appears that Mexico City legislators, who have also already legalised abortion, have more up their sleeve. According to the BBC, a spokesman told the AFP news agency that city legislators were now including a measure in the bill that would allow married same-sex couples to adopt children.

President Felipe Calderón's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, has vowed to challenge the gay marriage law in the courts. Church leaders are also expected to pressure Ebrard to veto the bill.

"Recognising homosexual civil unions as marriage goes against the public good and the emotional development of our children," Giovanni Gutierrez, a PAN city lawmaker, told the Financial Times.

 

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Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.