Straight Ahead for Equal Marriage?
MSPs vote overwhelming in favour of equality
A first step in a long road for the Scottish Parliament. On Wednesday 20 November, the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill underwent its first vote in the Scottish Parliament and passed with a majority of 98 votes to 15 (with 5 abstentions). While this is a great start, there is still a long road ahead before marriage equality can become a reality in Scotland.
Despite the freezing temperatures and occasional rain, a large crowd gathered outside the Scottish parliament in advance of the Stage 1 vote in support of the bill. I joined them and found everyone in celebratory mood.
Enthusiastically led by the Equality Network, chants included “all politicians know: Scotland backs equal marriage” and “time for the results to show: Scotland back equal marriage!” A representative from the Equality Network told those gathered that it was both a “historic day” and a “historic occasion.”
I’ve attended many rallies and protests before but what made this one stand out was the joyous and optimistic atmosphere. I was not alone in this observation. Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called the crowd a “positive, happy force” for good and said that equality was what had “won the day”.
Equal marriage is a topic that usually attracts passionate correspondent support and opposition. Last month in Australia, the New South Wales same-sex marriage bill was under pressure from dissenters and some conservative politicians.
In Edinburgh, only four people from a group calling themselves the United Christian Witness Against Same-sex Marriage stood outside the parliament in opposition to the Bill. They silently handed out ‘frequent sinner cards’ and homophobic leaflets detailing what is allegedly wrong with both homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Next steps for turning the draft Bill into law
Alex Neil MSP who has led the Bill said, “I am sure we will take this through stage 2 and stage 3 as early as possible in 2014.”
The Equality Network has a rough timeline of the expected progress of the bill, with the first same-sex marriages possibly taking place in 2015. In addition, Neil stated that there is “no reason to delay.” Stage 2 consists of the bill returning to committee level for amendments.
Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie has urged the Parliament to resist any pressure to make amendments that give “undue license” to those wishing to “perpetrate homophobia.” A major issue likely to come up in amendments is that of transgender rights. The Scottish Transgender Alliance, a branch of the Equality Network, has produced a helpful document addressing issues that may arise and suggests amendments that could be made to the bill to help protect trans rights.
In stage 3, the amended bill returns to parliament for a final vote and. The passage of stage 1 is no reason to be complacent, however, since there is a chance that any amendments made could change how MSPs vote.
Speaking at the rally, Harvie, a notable crowd favourite, summed up the optimism felt by the crowd: "Today [and over the future course of the bill] we’ll have a really genuine sense of pride in our Parliament."
This is a guest post by our volunteer coordinator Risga Carson.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.