A consequence of the reshuffles north and south of the border is that the two ministers responsible for delivering same sex marriage has changed.
You may remember my fit of pique the other day at the precious equalities portfolio being handed to the Tories. It’s like giving someone a cashmere jumper when you know they’ll use it as a blanket for the dog. In moulting season. I have not calmed down in any sense since then. We don’t know what Helen Grant, the new equalities minister makes of the idea of equal marriage, but we know that she was part of Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice foundation which came up with the marriage tax break. In any event, she is unlikely to be as passionate about the issue as her predecessor, the Fabulous Ms Featherstone who, by the way, tells the story of her reshuffle on her blog. Seriously, she compares Cameron to Simon Cowell.
In Scotland, health minister Nicola Sturgeon, who had the equalities brief, has gone off to try and make us independent. That’s probably a clever move on Alex Salmond’s part. He knows that the Yes campaign has had a very male look to it, so putting a competent woman, who’s an able communicator, in this role is not a bad idea. Like Lynne, she is in favour of equal marriage and has been a key driver of the SNP Government’s proposals. We don’t know what Alex Neil thinks of equal marriage because he didn’t respond to the campaign when they asked.
While it may be that both Governments’ plans will proceed unhindered despite the changes, the uncertainty is at best unsettling. If the Liberal Democrats don’t put their foot down and insist on it at Westminster, my lividness of the other day will look as though it was the gentlest of rebukes. Oh, and if the Tory right kicks off, and Labour pulls the same stunt that they did with the House of Lords, that would be a huge betrayal of the LGBT community.
In Scotland, there is a bill to legislate for equal marriage planned in this year’s programme for Government, which goes further than the one in England by allowing religious organisations who want to to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies. I have to say it was good to see it there.
My worry is that now the measure both north and south of the border is being piloted by people who may not be as passionate about it as their predecessors, they will be less inclined to find a way round the inevitable barriers which will arise. It’s the same for everyone – we will pursue the things that we really want to do with added vigour.
We know that certain religious organisations are going to fight tooth and nail to derail this measure. I would hope that we’d get an early signal from both governments that there will be no change and the legislation will go through.