Graffiti artist speaks out on gay marriage through work

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at May 25 2012 01:35 PM | Updated as of May 26 2012 12:42 AM

A graffiti by Ben Naz being admired by a policeman. Photo courtesy of KamikazeSussex

LONDON - As the British government considers same-sex civil marriage in the UK, a Filipino-French graffiti artist unveiled his new public work to fuel the debate on the controversial issue.

London-based street artist Ben Naz created his latest graffiti on a wall at Southbank, a busy area along River Thames with several arts venues, parks and restaurants.

“It depicts the ongoing civil rights struggle for same-sex marriage across the world. The issues are being undermined and a lot of political issues are getting sucked into it,” Naz told ABS-CBN Europe.

The graffiti, entitled “WPC Together”, portrays a kiss between two police officers of the same sex, and has already caused some controversy before it was even made.

“The work was supposed to be decorating the streets of Brick Lane, but due to the extent of my work's controversy, the owner of the building decided to pull it off 6 hours before I was about to head to do the work. Apparently, it could cause a lot of stir and disapproval according to the owner. And he doesn't feel that it would be suitable to have this on his premises,” the artist revealed.

Naz, whose work has been seen in Paris, London, New York and Manila, is adamant more needs to be done to deal with social issues like gay marriage, adding that his works are statements on subjects that most people tend to dismiss or ignore.

Same-sex marriage is currently allowed in 10 countries, including Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Argentina, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Iceland, and The Netherlands.

Graffiti artist Ben Naz joined the debate on gay marriage with his latest work. Photo courtesy of the artist

The battle for same-sex marriage

In January 2012, the UK government launched a public consultation on equal civil marriage, which outlines proposals on the legalization of same-sex civil marriages, availability of civil partnerships for all, and matrimonial rights of transsexuals.

In November 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his support for gay marriage at the Conservative party conference.

“It’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: 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.

The proposals, however, have been publicly criticized by high-profile members of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just change it overnight,” Dr John Sentamu, a senior cleric at the Church of England, told The Telegraph earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the US, President Barrack Obama publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage.

“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly. At a certain point, I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," he told ABC News.

In response, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said he is against same-sex marriage, but is in favor of other rights like domestic partner benefits and hospital visitation.

In an interview with Fox News, he explained: “My preference would be to have a national standard that would define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. That would then allow states to determine what rights would be provided for people of the same gender that want to have a relationship.”

Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in some parts of the US, including New York, Washington DC, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington. It is legally banned in 31 US states.

The UK public consultation on same-sex civil marriage ends on 14 June.

The latest graffiti by street artist Ben Naz at Southbank in Central London. Photo courtesy of the artist