Campaigners push for marriage equality worldwide

Story highlights

Campaigners worldwide pushing for same-sex marriages

Australian Prime Minister reiterates her opposition to gay marriage

Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway among countries allowing same-sex marriages

Same-sex relations are still criminalized in 76 countries, five with death penalty

Hong Kong CNN  — 

Cushla wore a white dress for her big day, Tania, braces, a hat and bow-tie. The couple, now wife and wife, tied the knot during a small ceremony led by an unregistered celebrant on a farm west of Sydney, Australia. It had all the hallmarks of a “real” wedding. Except this one wasn’t valid, at least under Australian law.

Australia is one of many countries around the world where same-sex couples are not permitted to legally marry. And the law doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has long opposed gay marriage, made it clear Thursday that her mind hadn’t been nudged by a politically risky move by U.S. President Barack Obama to back same-sex marriages Wednesday night.

“My view hasn’t changed and when a bill comes to the parliament later this year, moved by private members, Stephen Jones, one of our Labor members… When that bill comes to the parliament this year I won’t vote for it,” Gillard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Jones is one of two members of parliament who have submitted a private member’s bill that calls for the legalization of gay marriage, however neither Gillard nor main opposition leader Tony Abbott support it.

“Obviously at this stage we’ve still got more work to do,” said John Kloprogge, spokesman for campaign group Australian Marriage Equality. “But we are confident that this issue has the support of the majority of Australians and it will eventually be supported by the leaders of our major parties.”

Obama’s decision to openly endorse same-sex marriage won plaudits from campaigners worldwide who have been pushing for more liberal laws since the first same-sex couples walked down the aisle in the Netherlands in 2001.

Same-sex marriages are now allowed in a number of U.S. states and in countries including Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina, according to Australian Marriage Equality.

Wedding bells are close to ringing on same-sex marriages elsewhere: Leading human rights activist Peter Tatchell hailed Obama’s move as evidence that support for same-sex marriage was “an unstoppable global trend”.

“Gay marriage is all about love,” he said. “The love of same-sex couples is just as real, strong and committed as that of married heterosexual men and women. Prohibiting same-sex marriage devalues and denigrates the love of lesbian and gay couples. It signifies our continuing second class legal status.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports their legalization in the UK, where authorities are currently consulting on the issue, having permitted civil partnerships since 2005.

However the issue’s omission this week from the Queen’s Speech, which outlines laws to be introduced in the coming months, dismayed campaigners. Ben Summerskill, of gay rights charity Stonewall said he was “disappointed,” and pledged “to push both coalition parties to deliver on their promise… by 2015.”

After becoming the first country to legalize same-sex unions in 1989, Denmark is close to doing the same for same-sex marriages. In 2007, Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people should be protected and that a committee be formed to draft laws on same-sex marriage