Scotland and England have different marriage laws. In past centuries, a girl under 21 in England could not legally wed without the consent of her father or legal guardian – but in Scotland, it was legal for a minor to enter marriage without their guardian’s consent, and so Gretna Green, the first Scottish town that an eloping English couple would reach as they crossed the border, became the iconic place for a runaway marriage.
The UK government has announced that come March 2012, they’ll begin to consider whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry: the Scottish government’s consultation, launched on 2nd September, ends today.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve handed out consultation forms to any number of people, mostly Scottish residents but some visitors from England or Wales, and I’ve been asked “Is it OK to fill it in if I’m not from Scotland?”
The quick answer is, yes, because the decisions the Scottish government make about making marriage legal for same-sex couples will affect everyone across the UK. Some of the people I spoke to took forms: others said they would ask their Scottish friends and relations to respond. There has been no concerted campaign to recruit English responses, and no organisation based outside Scotland has called for English and Welsh people to respond.
The Scottish Government’s answer is: “People outwith Scotland may wish to respond and may have points to make about experience in other countries. However, we will ensure that the summary and analysis of the consultation responses reflect the responses received from Scotland and distinguish them as far as possible from the responses received from elsewhere.”
Scotland will lead the UK on equality for all: and on a more banal level, it would be good for tourism, if same-sex marriage becomes legal in Scotland well before the rest of the UK, as states in the US that have lifted the ban on same-sex marriage have discovered: weddings are a profitable business, especially when people have to come to your state to marry because their home state won’t permit them to wed.
What “Scotland for Marriage” says: “Clearly, the pro-gay marriage groups can’t get enough people in Scotland to back their campaign. That’s why they’re desperately asking metropolitan elites in London to bail them out of a consultation flop – and, shamefully, the SNP Government is allowing it.”
But whose consultation flopped?
By Wednesday 7th December, over 18,000 people had responded via the various pro-gay marriage links, using either a full consultation form or a slightly-condensed version.
The anti-marriage campaign claims 25,000 – of which 20,000 were only simple postcards (a single-option printed message to say “No”, no option to say “Yes”) and add the respondents name and address, obtained by handing out 200,000 postcards at 450 parishes across Scotland.
So 18,000 full responses against maybe 5,000 full responses (if that) – plus a 10% response rate for a negative postcard campaign conducted under circumstances to ensure that every one of the 185,000 Catholics who regularly attend mass could respond if they wished to – and most of them didn’t. Was that a flop?
Why, look here: which organisation based at 70 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 8AX is begging for English responses, having failed to get enough people in Scotland to back them? Why, the metropolitan elite Christian Concern for our Nation, on 8th December, with a wail of URGENT! So who’s desperate to get a response from metropolitan elites in London and save their consultation flop?
I can vouch for the young people I have spoken to on how receptive this generation are to questions of equality. Tell them you want them to respond to a Scottish Government consultation and it provokes little response; tell them it’s about same-sex marriage, and something switches on. Young people might not vote in their droves, but when it is an issue they care about, they are very interested in politics indeed.
The sheer number of responses is testament to how important this type of issue is to us. I do not know whether it comes from an inherent sense of fairness and justice or whether society is simply changing for the better, but the issue of equal marriage is a no-brainer.
Tradition and scripture flopped. Equality and love won out. The strange thing is, no doubt the anti-marriage campaigners will spin a victory for equality and love as a defeat for Christianity.
…an antipathy that goes “beyond” any traditional opposition to extramarital sex, an unprecedented and inordinate “excessive contempt … toward gays and lesbians.” And this contempt is perceived as central to the meaning and substance of Christianity — the “most common perception” of the faith for Christians and non-Christians alike. – The Gay-Hatin’ Gospel