It will come as no surprise to our readers that So So Gay was delighted at yesterday’s news from north of the border. The Scottish Government’s announcement that it intends to bring forward a bill which would make it the first part of the UK to allow same-sex marriage was music to our ears.
Devolution has changed the face of British politics dramatically – nowhere more so than in Scotland, where the governing Scottish National Party has used the country’s increased autonomy to bring a once radical notion of independence to the fore. Integral to achieving its primary goal of a sovereign Scotland is making the nation as distinct from its neighbours as possible. To this end Scots enjoy many benefits, not least free university education, which the rest of the United Kingdom looks upon with great envy.
A United Kingdom in which gay and lesbian couples could theoretically legally marry in one constituent nation but not in the others might seem paradoxical to many. The more superfluous the union appears, the less fantastical the idea of Scottish independence may seem. Admittedly this is a brutally cynical interpretation of the SNP’s intentions; indeed, it is not an assessment with which we necessarily concur. Besides, any political advantage for the SNP to the detriment of the UK as a political entity is arguably more than compensated for by the legal recognition of same-sex love, which has come to be seen by many as an inalienable human right.[pullquote_left]We suspect that, just as with many other questions of ‘morality’, a middle ground will prove elusive[/pullquote_left]Ultimately, the Scottish government’s intention to implement marriage equality will serve to deepen the ideological schism exposed by representatives of the country’s main religious institutions. The most ferocious opposition to equal marriage has been voiced by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, who called for a referendum on the issue and initiated an anti-equality fundraising drive with the Scotland for Marriage campaign. Although deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon has made clear the government’s ongoing commitment to freedom of conscience for religious representatives, the Church of Scotland yesterday expressed its continued concern for ministers for whom celebrating gay civil partnerships or marriage ceremonies would run contrary to their beliefs. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, there will be many who will affirm that allowing religious institutions to ‘opt out’ of officiating at same-sex ceremonies will allow a lingering spectre of discrimination to thrive. We suspect that, just as with many other questions of ‘morality’, a middle ground will prove elusive. [pullquote_right]This whole island could be a beacon of marriage equality by 2015[/pullquote_right]We believe that there is much cause for optimism that the Scottish Government will succeed in making marriage equality a reality, not least due to the fortunate factor of cross-party consensus on the issue at Holyrood. It is entirely conceivable that, provided David Cameron holds his nerve in the face of considerable backbench disquiet, this whole nation could be a beacon of marriage equality by 2015, similar timescales having been set by both governments.
That Scotland has become the first part of the United Kingdom to formally declare its intention to implement the legalisation of same-sex marriage is made even more remarkable when one considers one particular historical perplexity; Scotland only decriminalised homosexual activity as recently as 1980, some 13 years later than England and Wales. Conversely, this is a nation where the Conservative Party is led by Ruth Davidson, a member of the Church of Scotland who lives with her female partner.[pullquote_left]We applaud the Scottish Government for this momentous pledge of support for equal marriage[/pullquote_left]Devolution, combined with the sheer pace of social change and the seismic shift in public opinion on LGBT issues, means that the eyes of same-sex couples are now firmly fixed northwards. We applaud the Scottish Government for this momentous pledge of support for equal marriage. We urge both the Holyrood and Westminster administrations to remain true to their commitment to marriage equality, even in the face of nefarious criticism from those who would seek to exert undue influence on the political process. Finally, we are mindful of our fellow LGBT citizens in Northern Ireland, for whom equal marriage remains a distant dream.
Featured image courtesy of Olly Clarke.