We’re not far away now from the SNP Government up here announcing whether it will legislate for equal marriage.
In the last few days, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland has promised an “unprecedented backlash” if legislation is introduced. This is seen as a threat that Catholics will withdraw their support from the SNP. It’s a threat the Cardinal can’t hope to deliver upon. The Equality and Human Rights Commission report last year found that the Church leaders did not speak for their members. In fact, research carried out by Professor John Curtice as far back as 2006 found 57% of Catholics in favour of same sex marriage and only 25% against. Even if the Cardinal demanded that every Catholic voted against the SNP, the chances of people changing their votes in protest on this issue is small. The Cardinal can’t be in the voting booth with every single Catholic.
The language becomes ever more sinister, with talk of war and backlash. Jaye Richards-Hill, who took part in last week’s blessing at Holyrood with her wife Ruth has told of how she’s been threatened with legal action because she used the word’s “Scotland’s shame” to describe the Cardinal’s comments. I think her analysis is pretty fair, to be honest. The intimidation, persecution and misinformation practised by the Catholic Church on this issue is certainly nothing for our nation to be proud of.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times also reported that Muslim leaders in Glasgow were also threatening to withdraw support from the SNP over the issue.
And we have to ask as well, where would they go? Labour, Green, Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders and parties are all in favour of equal marriage and have all signed the Equal Marriage campaign’s declaration. All Scotland’s political leaders would stand with the SNP if they went ahead and legislated for it.
The Cardinal is kidding himself if he thinks Scottish politics is suddenly going to re-align itself in opposition to equal marriage. In fact, it might well bring some much needed harmony, common sense and consensus. The independence referendum campaign so far has had some bitterly divisive moments and some really nasty things have been said – but both Yes Scotland and Better Together showed up at Glasgow Pride on Saturday to support the cause.
There may be a few loud voices in opposition, but generally the country is behind the idea of equal marriage with almost two thirds of Scots supporting it. The SNP should follow the lead set by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon n this issue. She has said that the Government is minded to legislate to allow equal marriage. This in no way compels any religious organisations to perform marriage ceremonies they don’t agree with. In turn, the leadership of those organisations should not be allowed to dictate to the rest of us how we should live our lives. The proposal to legislate for equal civil marriage and allow those religious organisations who want to conduct religious marriage ceremonies to do so maximises freedom for all. If those religious organisations want to discriminate against same sex couples, then that’s for them to decide. The Government certainly should not be doing it for them.
So, today, why not tweet @nicolasturgeon and tell her you’ll stand with her and the Government on this issue if they decide to legislate and help to win over those few hearts and minds who are still concerned about it. I think we need to stand up positively for all couples who love each other to have the same recognition of their lives together by the state. That’s what this boils down to.