So, on Wednesday, 20 November 2013, Scotland took another momentous step forward when the Bill promoting same sex marriage was passed in the first stage in the devolved Scottish Parliament. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) voted in favour to promote the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, 98 for and 15 against with five abstentions.
The Bill will enter stage two in the new year, then a third vote has to follow. While this may be taking time, it is worth noting that the Bill does not only cover same sex marriage but is the widest review of marriage law in Scots history, which will see marriage rights being extended to all sexualities and genders.
There has of course been mixed reactions concerning the vote. To say that those who voted against it were sore losers would be an understatement. Elaine Smith (Labour Party) MSP stated;
Well sorry Elaine dear, but if you take a stance against anyone because they are homosexual, then you are indeed both homophobic and bigoted. If the cap fits, wear it sweetie. As for likening Elaine to the Ku Klux Klan? Well they do indeed define themselves as a Christian organisation, and given that they are rabidly homophobic, it seems to me that Elaine Smith’s own twisted brand of Christianity would be right at home among them. I of course would never condone calling for Elaine to be burned at the stake as a witch. Not least because such things were done by intolerant religious bigots – people just like Elaine Smith in fact.
And no-one is redefining marriage nor disparaging her religion. Christianity does not have monopoly upon marriage, and if Elaine Smith imagines it does, then I would challenge her to a) show me a clear definition of marriage in the Bible, and b) tell every non-Christian married couple in the world that they are not married. If anything, it appears to me that it is Elaine Smith and people like her who seek to redefine marriage (to fit their own bigotry), disparage the faiths and beliefs of non-Christians, and in doing so does her own faith a gross disservice. Furthermore, Ms Smith was elected as an MSP to represent her consituents, not her faith. Given that there is no established church in Scotland, and that the Scottish Parliament is already very secular, I would venture if she is unable to understand that, then she is unfit to hold her parliamentary responsibilities.
Sadly, the churches in Scotland take a similar line, with the three main denominations, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland all saying they will not support same sex marriage. Fair enough, nobody is asking them to do so. In fact, if they care to read the Bill (which few people opposing it seem to have done), then they will find that there is provision written into it protecting religious belief. But then, even that was not needed. There is no stipulation upon any clergy to marry anyone, and the churches know this full damned well. Clergy have always refused to marry couples on various grounds (the most common one being that the couple are not regular church goers). That does not change, nor could it. Yet the way the churches are talking, you would think some sort of gay governmental goon squad was going to force clergy to marry gays at gunpoint.
The churches also use the “redefinition” argument and it is disingenious. As I said before, Christianity has no monopoly upon marriage, and there is no clear definition of marriage laid out in the Bible. Some, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, are trying to claim that marriage is between a man and a woman for procreation, as Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply. If those backing that line are so adamant about that, then I would counter that their churches must equally stop marrying couples where one or more partner is able to conceive due to reasons of health or disability, elderly couples, couples who simply choose not to have a family and asexual couples. The churches currently have no problem marrying all of the above groups, and in the case of asexual couples, no-one even questions whether or not the marriage has been consummated. But then, it has happened on occasion that clergy have married a couple where one person is terminally ill on their deathbed, and that marriage has never been consummated. It seems to me then that, again, if anyone is trying to ‘redefine’ marriage, it is certain clergy and their supporters.
However, as I say, let the churches oppose same sex marriage. That is never going to make it go away, and if the churches dig their heels in, then it will be to their own detriment. The Christian church has constantly changed and moved with the times down the ages. Like anything else in society, or like a living creature, it is inevitable that it must do so. And if any Christian should doubt that, then I challenge them to go out and cure leprosy by sacrificing a pair of doves, as laid out in Leviticus 14:1-57.
Times change and the church must change with the times. Given that they are so short of bums on pews, which is ever dwindling, you would think that the clergy would learn that lesson. If they shall not, then I am afraid that they will go the way of all things incapable of evolving; they shall wither and die. And it may surprise many that although I am an atheist, I do not say good riddance. I am not an anti-theist. I fully realise the importance of faith to a great many people, including some in the LGBT community, and if anything the churches, preaching a religion based on love and understanding, to them a disservice as well as themselves.
There have of course been some lighter moments in the debate. After a Scots Gaelic group on Facebook congratulated the Scottish Parliament on passing the vote, one member left, leaving this message:
Before you question my scottish nationalism my ancestors fought in glenbuckets regiment at Culloden for the Bonnie Prince. I didnt know this was a marxist page. I liked this page cause i saw it was a nationalist page and was pro gaelic.”
Because of course Islam takes such a liberal and enlightened stance towards homosexuality, doesn’t it. Suuuuuure it does. And of course, we are all Marxists, which makes me suspect the writer is an American fundamentalist who has never read Marx and has no idea what Marxism is about. But then they more or less prove they do not know what they are talking about when they mention Bonnie Prince Shortbreid Tin himself, Charles Edward Staurt. The 1745 rebellion was nothing to do with Scottish nationalism. Charles Edward Stuart’s objective was to unseat the Hanoverian King George II and place his father, James Francis Stuart, on the British throne. That the Stuarts believed they had the divine right to rule all of Britain, a free Scotland would not have been in their interests. We can therefore disregard this sad person as what we commonly refer to in Scotland as a numpty.
However, let the naysayers bang on all they want. The fact is that they have just lost another major battle, and with the vast majority of MSPs in favour of same sex marriage, they have already lost the war.
Homophobia is Scotland’s past. A country where all have the same rights and respect, regardless of sexuality or gender identity is our future.