This week is a momentous one for Equal marriage as the legislation finally reaches the chamber at Holyrood for its first debate. It has been a long road, particularly so for those of us who have been involved in the campaign over the past few years. MSP’s on both sides of the argument will be honing their speeches and interventions and no doubt the media will be sharpening pencils and cranking up the cameras. From where I’m standing it certainly is a momentous week, and there will probably be many opinions aired, both written and spoken. Ruth and I have been involved in this campaign, and I apologise unreservedly to everyone who has had to watch me repeatedly throwing the wedding bouquet every time there is a news item on equal marriage on the television here in Scotland (and just to correct a point, we didn’t actually hold a ‘mock wedding’ as many in the media have termed it, but we did have a blessing on our marriage). We are fortunate to actually be married which was important for us and so keenly feel the pain of those who are unable to marry currently or unable or even unwilling to have to travel abroad to marry, as we did.
Most people who have travelled this journey on both sides of a very polarised debate have managed to remain respectful whilst debating robustly over their strongly held views. Some people, unfortunately, were not able to exercise such restraint and we have seen some particularly nasty individuals creep out from under the furniture whilst the consultative and legislative stages of this process have been polished up. I’m still involved in criminal and civil proceedings surrounding this (both of which are still rumbling on, and will be for sometime yet as the various processes run their respective courses in the higher courts) so I can’t comment on this at the moment. There have been some notable causalities along the way, none more so than Cardinal Archbishop Keith O’Brien (whose own homosexual advances towards other priests were uncovered) and the spokesperson of the Scottish Roman catholic Bishop’s conference, John Deighan,who rather spectacularly lost the plot, and went completely off-message whilst debating with the ever cool, calm and reasonable Tom French from the Equality Network during a television news show.
It is absolutely not ‘homophobic’ to disagree with same sex marriage, but the abusive and derogatory language used by some people and organisations during this campaign has most definitely been beyond what anyone would term, robust debate, and that has certainly been homophobic and unacceptable in a just and equal society. Free speech carries with it a responsibility to keep within the law and those who are unable to step up to such a responsibility put themselves outside of the debate, and of relevance to the arguments taking place within the law.
One thing is for sure though. The legislation itself has received a huge amount of scrutiny and the vast majority of the legal and political opinion is that it is a good bill with completely adequate protection for those faith groups who don’t wish to celebrate same-sex marriages, as well as empowering those faith groups who do wish to be able to solemnise such marriages. Freedom of religion has to cut both ways and this legislation enables this. Churches and faith groups do not carry out marriages which are against their own belief systems and this just won’t change. Roman catholic priests don’t marry divorcees do they? And you can’t marry at a Mosque if you’re not both Muslims? Priests can refuse to marry a couple without having to give a reason (although most would) as they have freedom of conscience in this respect.
One regret, for me anyway is that individual clergy will still not be able to celebrate same sex marriages and this will undoubtedly be a cause of great sadness for a significant number of Church of Scotland ministers as well as Scottish Episcopal and Roman Catholic priests. I know that any of the clergy team at our church would have been very happy to have been able to marry Ruth and I. So I suspect that many of these ministers and priests will simply opt out of doing weddings at all until their own particular faith groups change their own canon laws which currently do not allow same sex marriage.
Many people have changed their views on marriage equality as this proposed change to marriage law has progressed over the months. This is perhaps in no small part due to the excellent and respectful campaign run by the Equality Network which has concentrated on facts rather than dogma and love rather than rhetoric. Stonewall Scotland has also been involved. If you contrast these with the scare campaigns run by, amongst others, the oddly-named Scotland for Marriage then you’ll see why so many people including a huge majority of MSP’s and all the political party leaders now support full marriage equality. The consultation exercises, contrary to what some might say, indicate that a majority of the Scottish people are in favour of this change. Professor John Curtice, one of Scotland’s foremost statisticians explains how and why this is so here.
So anyway, here are six very good reasons for supporting same sex marriage for you undecided folks out there to ponder upon…
It has been a long road, with some bumps along the way, but the journey’s end is now thankfully in sight. And so if you’ve not yet watched it, here is the wonderful, touching, beautiful short film made by the Equality Network.
So yes, it is time…
Filed under: change
, marriage equality
, Pastoral care
, Same sex marriage
, Equal marriage
, Equality Network
, faith in marriage
, freedom of speech
, Gay Marriage
, It's Time
, John Deighan
, keith O'Brien
, same sex marriage
, Stonewall Scotland
, Tom French