Archive | February 2014

Same Sex Marriage passed in Scottish Parliament

ImageWell, it’s on it’s way to being law Lovies.  On 4 February 2014 the Marriage and Civil Parnterships (Scotland) Bill passed the final third stage vote in the devolved Scottish Parliament by 105 votes to 18.  It was a free vote, rather than along party lines, and there were no abstentions, thereby making Scotland the 17th nation to recognise same sex marriage.

The Scottish Bill is truly momentous, as unlike the kneejerk legislation for England and Wales forced through Westminster in 2013, this law makes greater provision for transgender people.  Married transgender people in Scotland will no longer be forced to obtain written consent from their spouse before they can get legal recognition of their gender.  This is a clause which Liberal-Democrat Peer Baroness Barker regretted not being included in last year’s Westminster Bill.

The Scottish Bill will also allow for gender neutral and humanists ceremonies (for both heterosexual and same sex marriages), unlike in England and Wales.  And the Church of Scotland will not automatically be banned from solemnising same-sex marriages, unlike the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

The Kirk itself however was less than enthusiastic.  Alan Hamilton, convenor of the Kirk’s legal questions committee stated, “The Church of Scotland holds to the mainstream Christian belief that marriage is properly between a man and a woman”  Hmmm, just a shame for you there is nothing in the Bible to support that view dearie.   The other churches in Scotland, including the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, are outright refusing to recognise same sex marriage. And Rev James Gracie of the Free Church of Scotland Continuing in Edinburgh, protesting outside the Holyrood parliament building, stated, “Scotland is rejecting God today”  Oh if only Dear.

Probably the saddest objections came within the ranks of the Scottish National Party (SNP), who run the majority administration in the Scottish Parliament.  John Mason MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) attempted to table several last minute amendments to the Bill, one of which stated that no public sector employee should suffer “detriment” for believing marriage to be between a man and a woman.  Health Secretary Alex Neil MSP however rejected these, stating that robust protections for faith groups had already been included in the legislation.  Other SNP objectors included Roseanna Cunningham MSP and Fergus Ewing MSP.  Labour MSP and deputy presiding officer Elaine Smith, has also long been an objector, even at one point claiming she was the one being persecuted as ‘homophobic’.  Yes, pick up a dictionary Elaine, dear, and if the cap fits, wear it.

The Bill however has been widely congratulated by LGBT groups.  Tom French, Policy Co-ordinator of the Equality Network, stated “Today will be remembered in history as the day that lesbian, gay and bisexual people were finally granted full legal equality in Scotland, and given an equal right to marry the person they love.  This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980. Scotland can be proud that we now have one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world, and that we’ve sent out a strong message about the kind of country we are.  We know this change means so much to LGBT people across Scotland and we look forward to the first same-sex marriages taking place as soon as possible.” 

This is true indeed.  In the 1980s I used to work next door to a LGBT bookshop, and well recall that whenever the local police got bored, they would raid it for obscene materials.  No charges were ever brought and the shop would eventually get their stock back – damaged of course.  I also recall a gay friend of mine and his boyfriend being arrested in 1984 for “Outraging Public Morals” – by walking down a street hand-in-hand.  It is truly amazing how homophobia has been turned around in Scotland.  While it is still there, it is nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be, and I for one am just more than a wee bit proud of that Loves.  And yes, I am more than a wee bit emotional about this historical event as well.

The Bill has come in for criticism for taking so very long to pass through the parliament.  It should be emphasised however that the SNP administration, with overwhelming cross-party support, deliberately took their time to get this Bill right.  Tim Hopkins, another director of the Equality Network, fully supported the careful deliberations Holyrood took over the Bill, stating in The Scotstman newspaper;

“The Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee did a great job of taking evidence on the Government’s bill. That committee has a rather larger proportion of same-sex marriage sceptics than the parliament as a whole, and that helped ensure that all sides of the debate were closely examined. The committee produced a detailed report on the evidence, and in a free vote on 20 November, the parliament voted by 98 votes to 15 to approve the principles of the bill.”

It is also worth considering that the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill is the most momentous piece of legislation concerning partnerships ever tabled in Scottish history.  It includes legislation not only for LGBT couples, but for all, irrespective of sexuality and/or gender.  It was important for the Scottish government therefore to make this Bill watertight and ensure that it is truly representative of all the people.

The Bill now only awaits Royal Assent by the Queen (why we even bother with Betty is beyond me dears).  Various commentators have predicted that the first same sex marriage in Scotland could take place anytime between July and September.  The Scottish government for their part have given an undertaken to now speed up the process to get the Bill into Law as quickly as possible.  Watch this space for updates.

Finally, as a wonderful footnote to this enormous step in Scottish history, before the third vote passing the Bill took place, and with anti-SSM protestors forming outside, a rainbow formed above the Scottish Parliament building;