Opinion: MSP Joan McAlpine on same sex marriage

The need for equal marriage rights for Scotland's same-sex couples

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MSP Joan McAlpine on the need for equal marriage rights for Scotland's same-sex couples

In the recent public consultation on equal marriage, over 24,000 people responded in favour of lifting the effective ban on same sex marriage. MSP Joan McAlpine explains to The List what implications changes to the current laws would have, and why some are still so vehemently against changing the current rules.

The introduction of civil partnerships in 2004 meant many people believe we already have gay marriage. Lots of us have celebrated the union of gay friends and family. Thirty years ago, few gay people were allowed to be open about their sexuality. Thank goodness we have moved on from those dark days.

The proposal to equalise marriage will not seem like a huge step for the majority of people who have long since accepted same sex partnerships. If you accept the relationship in the first place, then why should you not also accept its formalisation? Therefore the equalisation of civil marriage seems fairly straightforward.

Religious marriage is a bit different because several denominations, including the Catholic Church, and the Church of Scotland, say it is contrary to their beliefs. However, nobody wishes to force any church to conduct marriages it opposes. We respect freedom of worship.

There are some denominations who are happy to conduct such marriages – and if we believe in true freedom of worship then this must be allowed. This will also mean a great deal to same sex couples who have faith and wish to make their vows in a religious ceremony.

Some have claimed churches could be accused of discrimination if they refuse to marry gay people. However, they are already exempt from equality legislation – for example the Catholic Church is not forced to ordain female priests, nor marry divorcees. If there is any doubt at all, the exemption should be tightened. While the marriage laws are devolved to Scotland, the equality legislation remains reserved to London. I would therefore urge the Westminster government to co-operate with Scotland if necessary, to help make equal marriage legal while also respecting spiritual beliefs.

Joan McAlpine is a member of the Scottish Parliament for the South of Scotland and regular columnist in the Scotsman. Her award-winning blog, Go Lassie Go, can be found at joanmcalpine.typepad.com

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