Britain’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, has produced a video backing gay marriage in honor of his late uncle, who came out as gay in his 50s.
Balls said his uncle died before he had the chance to have a civil partnership with his long-term partner.
The shadow chancellor is the most senior Labour politician so far to back Out4Marriage – a campaign which encourages politicians, celebrities and the public to record videos explaining why they want gay marriage equality.
Balls also uses his video to call on the government to allow religious bodies to marry gay couples if they choose.
He says: ‘I’m really proud of what Labour achieved on gay rights over the past 15 years: The repeal of Section 28, the equalization of the age of consent, also the introduction of civil partnerships.
‘And now we should go further and say to people regardless of their sexuality, people who want to get married should be able to do.
‘Twenty years ago my uncle came out in his 50s as gay and he died, I’m afraid, before he and his long-term partner could have a civil partnership. But actually in our family we would have liked him to have gone further and to have got married. It’s what he would have wanted, I believe.’
Balls also called for the government to allow religious bodies to host gay wedding ceremonies if they choose to, a move not currently being proposed by the Coalition.
He said: ‘I also believe that somebody who is religious and a churchgoer, if the church community wants it in that church, I think people should be able to get married in church too.
‘I really hope the government will look at that proposal as well. This is something whose time has come, and as somebody who is married as myself I think that people who want to get married should be able to get married. That’s why I’m Out4Marriage.’
Balls’ wife, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, also backed religious gay marriage in her Out4Marriage video.
She said: ‘I also hope the government goes further, religious marriages is of course a matter for individual religious institutions and churches and no one is proposing that they should be obliged to hold same sex marriage ceremonies because religious freedom is important.
‘But equally, we should support those religious institutions and churches that want to hold same sex marriage ceremonies. At the moment they’re not able to. I think that churches like the Unitarians and Quakers should be able to if they want to.’
Balls did not reveal the name of his late uncle, saying he wished to preserve the family’s privacy.
Senior Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also support same-sex marriage equality and the UK government is currently consulting on how to introduce civil marriage ceremonies, not on religious premises, in England and Wales. You can take part in the consultation here, which until now has been dominated by responses from the anti-gay religious right.
Similar moves are also planned in Scotland, though the Scottish government is considering allowing religious groups who want to wed same-sex couples.
Watch Ball’s video here: