Thursday, 11 August 2011

Marriage Equality In Scotland

With the news of a delay in the Westminster marriage equality consultation, attention has turned to Scotland where there has been a pointless argument brewing.

It all began when a SNP MSP called John Mason put forward perhaps the most misleading motion in Scottish Parliamentary history:

"That the Parliament notes the current discussion about same-sex marriages and the Scottish Government’s forthcoming public consultation concerning equal marriage; further notes that while some in society approve of same-sex sexual relationships, others do not agree with them; desires that Scotland should be a pluralistic society where all minorities can live together in peace and mutual tolerance; believes that free speech is a fundamental right and that even when there is disagreement with another person’s views, that person has the right to express these views, and considers that no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriages."

It all sounds reasonable enough and I can't think of anyone who'd have much of a problem with it. But that is the problem, for me anyway, it basically helps paint the picture that marriage equality supporters want to force every church in the country to marry same-sex couples. No one suggests this, this motion was created based on a false starting premise and that is what I find so wrong with it.

Patrick Harvie, a Green MSP, decided to add an amendment to the motion:

“notes that the balance between these views has changed substantially over recent decades, with the 2006 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showing 53% in agreement with equal marriage and only 21% in disagreement, and a poll in 2010 showing 58% support with only 19% against; congratulates the Scottish Youth Parliament on the launch of its Love Equally campaign for equal marriage and civil partnership, a campaign it voted to select after consulting with over 42,000 young people across Scotland; believes that the Scottish Government is recognising this shift in public attitudes with its forthcoming consultation on equal marriage; recognises that allowing same sex marriage and mixed sex civil partnerships would in no way undermine the rights and freedoms of whose who do not wish to participate in them; and further believes it would be both right and popular for secular and religious Scots alike to be free to reach their own view on the legal status that is right for their own relationship, instead of being banned by law from having their relationships recognised on equal terms.”

A bit of a mouthful, I think Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie's amendment says it more eloquently:

That the Parliament notes the current discussion about same-sex marriages and looks forward to the Scottish Government’s forthcoming public consultation concerning equal marriage; aspires for Scotland to be one of the most fair and equal places in the world; supports the extension of legal marriage to lesbian and gay couples; and believes that, while there would be no mandate on religious organisations, those religious denominations who wish to celebrate marriages for lesbian and gay people should be free to do so.

So the accusations of homophobia flew, even from John Mason's own party, and nothing much has been achieved beyond some political manoeuvring. The only sign of hope is that only 3 MSPs have signed Mason's motion (all SNP) whilst 31 MSPs have backed Harvie's. They are 19 SNP, 9 Labour, 2 Lib Dem and 1 Green.

The Tories seem to be keeping out of the debate. Perhaps John Mason's motion was too liberal for them?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist