The Scottish Government announced this morning that it would legislate for full equal marriage in Scotland, giving same sex couples the right to marry and allowing those religious organisations who wish to conduct these marriage ceremonies to do so. No celebrant or religious organisation will be compelled to carry out marriage ceremonies for same sex couples. This is everything that campaigners for equal marriage have been asking for and is the culmination of a vibrant 4 year campaign which has won hearts and minds across Scotland.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that cross party support for equal marriage had played a part in the Government's decision as the Scotsman reports. She said:
We are also mindful of the fact that the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament support same sex marriage and that there is significant parliamentary support for legislation.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has been highly vocal in his support for equal marriage and he welcomed the Government's move:
This is a small but important step for equality in Scotland. I'm sure there will be bumps on the road but Nicola Sturgeon can count on my support to deliver equality in marriage.
These reasonable changes are about removing barriers and extending freedoms. It's never been about compelling churches to conduct marriage ceremonies against their will. That's why I will work with Nicola Sturgeon to secure changes to the UK Equality Act to cement religious freedoms if such amendments are needed.
Willie was keen to emphasise that this isn't some huge, monumental step, but it really amounted to legislators catching up with public opinion, where polls show over 60% in favour.
Those of us in all parties who support marriage equality will now make good on our promise to stand with the Government in the face of what will be very noisy opposition from the leaders of the Catholic Church and other religious organisations.
This means that Scotland will be introducing wider ranging equality in marriage than England. Although Nick Clegg favours allowing religious marriages, the Coalition's plans relate only to civil ceremonies. I wonder if the news from Scotland will give greater impetus for further reform south of the border.
It just goes to show, though, what can be achieved when people work together across political lines. It's an example of grown up politics at its best and we really should be looking at how we can do more of this kind of thing.