It's my third wedding anniversary today, but thoughts of marriage have been playing on my mind since last week, when John Mason laid down his controversial motion in the Scottish Parliament.
During summer recess when MSPs are in their constituencies (not on holiday, as some may think), visiting organisations and constituents and taking the time to prepare for the session ahead. This is particularly true of those newly - elected MSPs. It's not really a time to take stances unless you're very keen to do so, as anything remotely newsworthy is certain to get in the papers. And so it does.
A Scottish Government consultation is to be held later in the year on equal marriage; it's well known that John is a man of faith, but I must say I didn't expect this motion at this time. The wording for those who've missed it, is as follows:
Motion S4M-00586 - John Mason ( Glasgow Shettleston ) ( Scottish National Party ) : The Equal Marriage Debate
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.
Supported by: Dave Thompson, Bill Walker, Richard Lyle
The motion, and the interpretation of it has provoked a lot of debate, both within the SNP and outwith. It has opened the party to criticism, when the notion of disapproving of equal marriage is not party policy or anything approaching the view of most members I know.
Three years ago, Joe and I had a civil ceremony in the beautiful Trades Hall in Glasgow, where we were strictly instructed not to mention God or religion anywhere in the proceedings. My family are notionally Church of Scotland, but since I hadn't been any kind of regular attendee at any church, I felt it would be a bit rude and hypocritical to suddenly decide that I wanted to be married in a church. It was a lovely ceremony, with poems by my brother and Joe's brother, and family and friends around us.
I can't support the current situation, where for some, a marriage can't be called a marriage. To me, that is immoral and discriminatory. If two people love each other enough to stand up in front of friends and family, to commit to sharing a future together, they deserve to be recognised and celebrated by society, regardless of their gender. Some Churches may question this, but I wonder what their opposition serves other than to turn people away from organised religion. It may be that we could consider adopting practice such as in France, where everyone has to have a Civil Ceremony, followed by a religious one if people so choose.
For the sceptics and the critics, it's worth noting that an increasing number of MSPs have signed Patrick Harvie's amendment to John's motion. I hope that those who try to pin a badge of inequality on the party I love will bear this in mind.
Motion S4M-00586.1 - Patrick Harvie ( Glasgow ) ( Scottish Green Party ) : The Equal Marriage Debate
As an amendment to motion S4M-00586 in the name of John Mason (The Equal Marriage Debate), leave out from “desires” to end and insert “considers 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 that it voted to select after consulting 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; considers that allowing same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnerships would in no way undermine the rights and freedoms of those who do not wish to participate in them, and further believes that 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.”
Supported by: Jamie Hepburn, Linda Fabiani, James Dornan, Sandra White, Liam McArthur, Jim Eadie, Kevin Stewart, Maureen Watt, Dennis Robertson, Joe FitzPatrick, Gil Paterson, George Adam, Kezia Dugdale, Alison Johnstone, Neil Findlay, Aileen McLeod, Joan McAlpine, Jean Urquhart, John Finnie, Drew Smith, John Park, Willie Rennie, Richard Baker, Mark McDonald, Jenny Marra