Tag Archives: scotland for marriage

Scotland’s for marriage

Elaine Smith MSPElaine Smith MSP, deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament, argued for polygamy in her written evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee last year, as the Scotland on Sunday anti-gay marriage story this morning quotes:

“Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position.

“Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”

There is “no logical reason” for discriminating against more than two people getting married if the redefinition of marriage is driven by love, Ms Smith adds.

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Pink+Blue Marriage

Once again, the Christian right is trying to kick up a fuss over nothing. Reverend Andrew Fothergil (Church of Scotland, Strichen and Tyrie Parish Church, Aberdeenshire) said:

“My personal position is that I think naturally, we have as celebrants, some concerns about the assurances that have been given by the Scottish Government about the safeguards it intends to put in place to protect celebrants who would hold a different position from what the future government legislation might become. I think many of us are a bit nervous about what protection it can actually offer.”

Reverend Fothergil has evidently not read the Church of Scotland’s admirably clear guide to people who want to have their marriage ceremony performed by a Church of Scotland Minister. That’s a shame, because it would calm him down from being “a bit nervous”.

Of the Frequently Asked Questions, the first one is: Q. Can anyone be married in a Church of Scotland church? The answer is:

The Church of Scotland is ‘national’, in that every district has its parish church. The parish minister is willing to discuss conducting marriage for any member of the parish. If you are not a church member, the minister will want to discuss with you whether a religious ceremony is what you are looking for, whether it will have meaning for you, and whether he or she agrees it is appropriate in your situation.

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Leaked email: no equal marriage

The SNP’s Yes Scotland declaration:

“I believe that it is fundamentally better for us all, if decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland, that is, by the people of Scotland.

Being independent means Scotland’s future will be in Scotland’s hands.

There is no doubt that Scotland has great potential. We are blessed with talent, resources and creativity. We have the opportunity to make our nation a better place to live, for this and future generations. We can build a greener, fairer and more prosperous society that is stronger and more successful than it is today.

I want a Scotland that speaks with her own voice and makes her own unique contribution to the world: a Scotland that stands alongside the other nations on these isles, as an independent nation.”

The quasi-legal argument some religionist objectors make to same-sex marriage is:

  • They claim that people who “speak out against it” might need special protection.
  • There’s no evidence for this. Neither in any of the countries in which same-sex marriage has been made legal, nor in any example of a religionist saying hateful things about LGBT people in the UK.

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Cardinal shame

In a BBC1 Scotland interview yesterday, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, best-known for comparing same-sex marriage to slavery, said it was immoral “just to ignore” those suffering as a result of the credit crunch.

Douglas Robinson and Michael Elsasser marry in New York Am I not a man and a brother?
Cardinal O’Brien thinks these two things are the same.

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Those bogus signatures on Scotland for Marriage’s petition

At least 27 of the names that were listed on the “Scotland for Marriage” petition were falsely added. This was discovered when the SfM campaign emailed all of their “supporters” to invite them to an event on Thursday against equal marriage. An array of students from Edinburgh and Glasgow university, many of them outspoken supporters of equal marriage, got the invite thanking them for their support. (Stuart Tooley, responding to the invite, wrote a model email to tell them they’d got it wrong.)

There is absolutely no reason to suppose that the Scotland for Marriage campaign coalition was deliberately adding fake signatures to bulk up their numbers. For one thing, in this particular instance all 27 of the names were added from the same computer and were all Edinburgh and Glasgow students, mostly NUS activists: if their university e-mail address were used, it’s very easy to work out what someone’s e-mail address must be, based on their name. The person who did it was probably pranking the 27 students, thinking it would be amusing to add pro-equal marriage names to an anti-equal marriage petition.

What this does demonstrate is that “Scotland for Marriage” weren’t checking to make sure all of the signatures attached to their petition were real. A stringent petition site will not let you add a signature with an email address not under your control – your signature should not appear until you have clicked on a link in an email sent to your address. Some sites also try to avoid multiple entries from the same IP address or from the same computer, though an unscrupulous person can work around them by clearing the cache between each entry or using multiple browsers.

But for this prank to work so successfully with twenty-seven fake signatures, each with a valid email address, the “Scotland for Marriage” petition must not even be taking the elementary precaution of emailing the signatory to let them know their name has been added, with a link to remove the signature if it’s been added in error. They’ve removed the 27 signatures discovered to have been falsified, but unless they now send emails to everyone listed asking them to verify their signatures, their campaign cannot honestly say that they know all 9000 signatures represent real supporters.

The “Scotland for Marriage” campaign claims that the signatures have been posted to “undermine” the group. Their own reluctance to verify each signature has undermined them. I don’t suppose anyone directly involved with the campaign was silly enough to think of bulking up the petition by adding false names. But the campaign against equal marriage is a silly campaign for hate, and it’s unsurprising that it leads people to do – and say – hateful, silly things.

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In Search of Compromise

Dear David,

In your letter on Scotland on Sunday, 11th December 2011 (two days after the equal marriage consultation closed) you say “I still hope some sort of compromise can be reached that might enable Christians of genuinely held but differing convictions to continue to worship together.”

There is. It’s the perfect compromise, and one I’m pretty hopeful will be enacted by the Scottish government.

At the moment, there’s a legal ban on all same-sex marriages, and a legal ban on all religious solemnisations of same-sex marriages in places of worship. This is fundamentally against freedom of religion.

The probable result of the recent consultation will be to lift these legal bans, which will allow same-sex couples who wish to marry to get married, and will allow churches and pastors who wish to marry same-sex couples, to do so. No church and no minister of religion will be forced to do so.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will doubtless argue it through to the bitter end and will come out on one side or the other – some ministers will wish to treat their parishioners equally, others will wish to discriminate, others yet will want to have no lesbian or gay or transgender parishioners at all, and bisexual parishioners only if they’re in the closet and in mixed-sex marriage. That isn’t the concern of government, and shouldn’t be.

You and your other homophobic friends will gather together and decide how important it is to you to oppose the idea that God loves everybody equally, and take your stand where you see fit. My personal thinking is that it would be advisable for you to argue for ministers in the Church of Scotland to have a personal right of refusal to wed same-sex couples, and thus put yourself on the moral high ground of religious freedom. If you argue that regardless of conscience, a minister must be forced to deny marriage to parishioners based on sexual orientation and gender identity, you are arguing against compromise and for a continuing fight – you cannot expect ministers to go against their conscience to make you happy forever.



PS See also: “Allowing same-sex couples to marry is said to be an attack on religious freedom! The line is consistently pushed that if it is legal for religious organisations and ministers of religion to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple, it will become illegal to refuse to do so. There is no instance of this ever happening: the fears that it might seem to derive from T H White’s totalitarian anthill, ‘Everything not forbidden is compulsory’.” What to expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade

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Who flopped?

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?

Andrew Deans of the Scottish Youth Parliament:

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.

One side called on the Scottish people in the name of tradition and scripture … and the other side called on the Scottish people in the name of equality and love.

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

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Polygamy’s not our problem

From the anti-gay anti-marriage website: “If marriage is redefined for same-sex marriage, it could be redefined for polygamy next. Canada introduced same-sex marriage and then that was used in a court case to argue that polygamy should be made legal. Once you start unpicking the definition of marriage, it can unravel further.”

It would be fair to wonder why the group that calls itself “Scotland for Marriage” is worrying about this. Marriage in Scotland does not lend itself to multiple partners legally, and while there exist examples of Scottish men who have two women whom he thinks of as “his two wives” (whether they know about each other or not), there are no examples of communities of men who expel their teenage sons from the community and marry each other’s teenage daughters and advocate their lifestyle as a means of getting into heaven, as there are in the US. Polygamy is a serious if limited problem in the US and in Canada, but not because anyone seriously thinks it might become law: it is a problem because polygamous communities damage both the women who are required to stay and the young men who are made to leave.

As Jonathan Rauch wrote in 2006:

Here is something else to consider: As far as I’ve been able to determine, no polygamous society has ever been a true liberal democracy, in anything like the modern sense. As societies move away from hierarchy and toward equal opportunity, they leave polygamy behind. They monogamize as they modernize. That may be a coincidence, but it seems more likely to be a logical outgrowth of the arithmetic of polygamy.

The threat of “polygamy may happen!” comes from the American anti-marriage script that the Scotland for Marriage campaign are using. They’ve cited as “proof!” that it could be so, a Canadian case which had been progressing through the courts for a couple of years. (The judge ruled against the polygamists last month.) Canada, because it’s one of the 10 countries in the world that has lifted the ban on same-sex marriage. The American Christian Right are very fond of pointing at Canada and blaming all its ills on gay marriage (or socialised medicine – take your pick).

Say No To PolygamyThere are many more Muslims in Scotland than Mormons. Islam permits that where the law of the land allows, a man who can support more than one wife, and will commit to treating all his wives equally, may marry more than once. At least one Islamic country has outlawed polygamy on the basis that human nature doesn’t allow a man to behave equally well towards two or more wives – and even where the law of the land allows poly marriage, Muslim women may opt for divorce rather than living with their husband and his new wife . Islamic polygamy is not a tradition that seems to be supported by the communities of Muslims in Scotland.

In Scotland, husband and wife have identical obligations, responsibilities, and rights. The Civil Partnership Act is the size of a telephone directory and it simply adds to each legislative reference for marriage, “or civil partners” to include same-sex couples. Working out the ramifications of this was an extensive piece of legislative work, and there was a long gap between the Act being passed and becoming law to allow public sector and statutory bodies to accommodate themselves to the change of recognising same-sex couples as equivalent to mixed-sex couples, whether married / in civil partnership, or simply living together.

Where equal marriage exists, and especially when same-sex civil partnerships have already been legislated for, opening up marriage to same-sex partners as well as mixed-sex partners is not a significant change – probably not even as complex as creating the separate-but-equal institution of civil partnership was.

This change was nothing beside the change that would be required to accommodate poly marriages in a legislative framework of equal marriage – a change, moreover, that no one is seriously arguing for – no one is campaigning for. Only the “Scotland for Marriage” crew, waving their American flag regardless.

In response to this case in Canada, Elizabeth Abbott wrote in The Walrus magazine:

In our longing to ensure that everyone enjoys every possible right, we have been willing to stretch our imaginations, swallow our bile, and give polygamy a chance. That is no less than our values demand of us. But legalizing it is not ultimately in the same category as granting a pastor the right to express his loathing of homosexuality, or as legalizing gay marriage. While much has been made, in particular, of the parallel between sanctioning same-sex unions and sanctioning polygamy, not least by Blackmore himself (at one point, he went so far as to suggest that the marriage of one of his Canadian wives with an American wife was proof of his support for gay marriage, and not a ploy to outfox immigration regulations), the outcomes couldn’t be more different. The former brought people into an existing system of rights; the latter poses a significant threat to that system. And that’s probably our cue, as a liberal society, to hold our noses and draw the line.

You have to wonder if “Scotland for Marriage” got the script with their funding – it’s been estimated they would have needed ten thousand pounds for their initial advertising costs at least, maybe more. This would be a big sum if raised by individual donations in Scotland (though they might have tapped Brian Souter for some pocket money) but it would be a trivial sum for the Alliance Defense Fund to donate to the Scottish cause – and SfM haven’t said who their donors are.

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Scotland for Marriage

I responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on lifting the ban on same-sex couples marrying in Scotland. (You can too: www.equalmarriage.org.uk.)

Question 10: Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same-sex marriage?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: There’s no reason to ban same-sex couples from getting married and that by itself is enough reason to change the law. Scotland ought to be a country which stands for fairness, justice, and equality. It should be up to each couple to decide for themselves how they want to solemnise their relationship. There’s been a lot of nonsense talked about how this will “damage” or “redefine” or “taint” marriage, or somehow lead to polygamous marriage or nebulous dangers to society. All of this has been said before by the Christian Right in the US – and all of it has been disproved in court in the US. It’s a sad shame that so many religious figures in Scotland are taking their cue directly from right-wing hate groups that use Christianity as their excuse to promote homophobia. They haven’t got any real reasons to oppose same-sex couples getting married, and there are solid reasons why a couple would want to marry – their religious beliefs, their preference for a universally-understood relationship, improved international recognition of their status if they travel. Denial of marriage to same-sex couples is a pointless discrimination.”

Question 13: Do you agree that same-sex couples should be able to get married through both civil ceremonies (conducted by a registrar) and religious ceremonies (conducted by those religious groups that want to)?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Mixed-sex couples in Scotland have always been able to decide if they want to get married by a civil or a religious ceremony – there’s no reason to ban same-sex couples from the same choice.

Question 19: If Scotland should introduce same-sex marriage, do you consider that civil partnership should remain available?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Some couples may still prefer to register via civil partnership instead of marriage, and the choice should remain open for them. Civil partnership should be opened up to mixed-sex couples. This would simplify international recognition as couples who have registered a civil partnership elsewhere (in New Zealand or in the Netherlands, for example) could be recognised as having a civil partnership in Scotland, whether same-sex or mixed-sex.

Question 1: Do you agree that legislation should be changed so that civil partnerships could be registered through religious ceremonies?

No. Please give reasons for your answer: I think it would be unfair to a registrar. Registrars perform civil partnership ceremonies and they shouldn\’t be required as part of their job to perform a religious ceremony which they may not agree with.

Question 5 & 11: Do you agree that religious bodies should not be required to conduct same-sex marriages or civil partnerships if it is against their wishes?

Yes. Please give reasons for your answer: Basic religious freedom. No religion should be required to solemnise a couple’s relationship if they feel it’s against their faith. Besides, who wants a dour pastor girning away as he sourly performs the marriage, on what should be the happiest day of their lives? Common sense and religious liberty both say it shouldn’t be required of a minister of religion who doesn’t want to do it.

Question 20: Do you have any other comments? For example, do you have any comments on the potential implications of the proposals for transgender people?

At the moment, with same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership banned by law, if a couple are married / in a civil partnership and one of them wants to transition, they’re required to get a divorce before the trans partner can get the final gender recognition certificate. This is profoundly wrong. No couple should be forced into divorcing against their will. If the law were changed to allow for same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership, mandated divorce in the gender recognition process would disappear.

Responding takes from two to ten minutes, depending how verbose you get. Just click here and get started.

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