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LONDON — Call it bad timing. On the very day President Obama gave his endorsement to same-sex marriage, the British government appeared to defer a promise to legalize it.
Gay rights activists were described as “bemused” by the decision not to include the issue in the legislative program outlined Wednesday in the annual speech by Queen Elizabeth II.
Although same-sex marriage is a less emotional and divisive issue in much of Europe than it has proved to be in the United States, Prime Minister David Cameron apparently opted to avoid a potential spat with the right wing of his Conservative Party after a poor showing in local elections last week.
Seven European states already allow gay marriage, and Britain, where same-sex civil partnerships have been legal since 2004, was due to follow suit by 2015. François Hollande, France’s president-elect, is also expected to push for same-sex marriage when he takes office.
At his party’s annual conference last October, Mr. Cameron said gay marriage was about equality and commitment.
“Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other,” he said. “So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”
Activists are now concerned that Mr. Cameron might be backing away from a commitment to change the law after right-wing MPs urged a return to “traditional values” after last week’s local election losses.
Gerald Howarth, junior defense minister, suggested the same-sex marriage issue was a contributing factor in the results. He told the BBC: “A lot of Conservatives have written to me saying ‘I am a lifelong Conservative, there is no mandate for this, why is this being proceeded with?’”
Others suggested gay marriage was a “distraction” when the government had
This article originally appeared on: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/disappointment-as-gay-marriage-is-left-out-of-queens-speech/