Thursday, March 17, 2011

Report shows Scotland's politicians have nothing to fear by implementing equal marriage

It's a month since I wrote that Scotland was now lagging behind England on the issue of equal marriage, after Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister was bringing in measures to allow civil partnerships to be conducted by those religious organisations which wanted to do so.

To say that Scottish politicians have been lukewarm to the idea of equal marriage would be overstating the case. It's almost as if they hope it'll just go away. Now, though, as Pink News reports, a report should reassure them that taking action to implement equal marriage will have the support of not far off two thirds of Scottish people, including a fair few religious denominations.

I've just flicked through the full report, but it makes interesting reading. Basically it shows that support for same sex couples being allowed to marry has gone up by 9% between 2006 and 2009, from 53% to 62%. The furore over the abolition of Section 2A, as Section 28 was called up here, when Brian Souter staged a referendum over the Government's proposals is, I think, casting a longer shadow than it should. The evidence shows that a significant majority of Scottish people would welcome a change to a system which allows same sex couples to marry.

As parties polish off their manifestos for Holyrood,  if they don't have it in already, they should revise them to include plans to make civil partnerships and marriage available to everyone, and to ensure that those religious organisations or humanist celebrants who wish to, are free to conduct these ceremonies. The report shows that there is often a divergence of opinion between churches and their members with the latter being far more relaxed about same sex relationships. While there will no doubt be some who will protest any change to the law, it's clear that a clear majority of Scottish people would support it.

There's a spooky amount of common ground between the EHRC's recommendations and the equal marriage policy passed at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference last year - with the exception that our policy makes specific mention of humanist celebrants who are currently not allowed to solemnise civil partnerships.

So, parties and candidates,  what are you waiting for?  There aren't too many policies which are realistic, popular, achievable and inexpensive at the moment, so don't pass one up when it comes along.  With a bit of political will, this change could be law up here in a year or so. Let's do it.

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