The Isle of Man is set to pass new marriage legislation which has been described as more progressive than UK law.
Sometimes simply called ‘Mann’, this island in the Irish Sea is a ‘self-governing crown dependency’. This means that although the Isle of Man can make its own laws, foreign relations and defence are the responsibility of the UK government. Their parliament is the ‘High Court of Tynwald’. This is made up of two chambers: the ‘House of Keys’, which is directly elected by the people of the island, and the Legislative Council, which is not.
Although the island made homosexuality legal as late as 1992, last week the House of Keys approved a bill which will grant gay couples full marriage rights. Not only that, the bill would also extend civil partnerships to straight couples.
Speaking to the House of Keys, Isle of Man Chief Minister Allan Bell said that when homosexuality was illegal, the law “provided a possible sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual activity”. The law left the island’s reputation “in tatters” as many lives were ruined, he claimed. The new marriage bill gives Mann’s politicians the opportunity to “bury that dark history once and for all”, the Minister declared.
Gay rights campaigners welcomed the move. Long-time activist Peter Tatchell congratulated Tynwald for introducing a bill which “does not follow the discriminatory example of England and Wales, where we have segregation in marriage law”. Currently, English law gives gay couples the choice between civil partnership and marriage, whereas straight couples can only choose to marry.
Tatchell said that the Marriage Act 1949 was “for opposite-sex couples only” while the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was “for same-sex couples only”, adding that “separate is not equal”. Once the Tynwald passes this bill, their law will be “head and shoulders above the UK” he claimed.
Photo of Tynwald by Paula Funnell via Flickr