British Deputy PM Flies Gay Pride Flag Over Whitehall for First Time in UK History
Coinciding with London's gay pride celebration this past weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg hoisted a rainbow flag, an emblem of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual activism, over the Whitehall building for the first time ever. Clegg accompanied this public support for same-sex marriage by expressing his personal opinion that churches in England should be allowed to perform those unions if they wish, a statement contradicting Prime Minister David Cameron's June pledge.
Clegg, who received permission from a local council to fly the flag, said the flag represents a "small but important emblem" for gay activism in the country.
"There has to be a first time for everything – flying this iconic flag in the heart of Whitehall is a small but important emblem that the Government and this country are behind equal rights," he said in a statement, as reported by The Telegraph.
"I'm absolutely delighted that, with a little bit of persuasion and determination, we've been able to fly the rainbow flag for this weekend's festivities. I hope this is the start of a new era of pride across the historic Whitehall village," he added.
England's historical Whitehall building holds the country's Cabinet Office in Central London, and is considered the center of government in the country.
Along with the legalization of same-sex marriage, Clegg is also pushing for such wedding ceremonies to be performed in England's churches.
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"I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn't force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn't stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage," Clegg recently told The London Evening Standard.
"I don't see why two individuals who love each other and want to show commitment to each other should not be able to do so in a way that is socially recognized as being marriage," he added.
Clegg's opinion contradicts the government's June statement which said that although it does plan to legalize same-sex marriage in the country by 2015, religious institutions would be exempt from performing these marriages.
Clegg has said that his wish to see same-sex marriages performed in religious institutions is merely a personal opinion as of now and holds no legal standing.
Religious groups throughout the country, including the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, argue that allowing churches to voluntarily marry gay and lesbian couples would possibly put pressure on all churches, eventually forcing all priests to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Legal issues, including lawsuits, could also arise among priests and churches which continue to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage, told The Telegraph that Clegg is simply trying to capitalize on London's gay pride festival for political reasons.
"This is yet another demonstration, if one was needed, as to why the proposals to rewrite the definition of marriage should be ditched," said Hart.
"Mr Clegg, is shifting the goalposts in a totally transparent attempt to garner support for his party ahead of the world pride festival in London," he said. "He is playing politics with marriage."
Like the rest of the United Kingdom, the legalization of same-sex marriage has become a hot button issue in Great Britain, creating a dividing line between those politicians supporting and opposing the legalization.
Civil partnerships are currently legal in Great Britain, and allow several of the same benefits as marriage, including inheritance, child maintenance, life assurance, next of kin and immigration rights.