Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20th November 2013.

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Photo of Nigel Don Nigel Don Scottish National Party

The member must forgive me if I make some progress. I will come back to him if I can.

Having been around for millennia, the traditional view of marriage has worked rather well as the basis of family relationships in societies around the world. In the Christian faith, it is not just a practical policy but also hugely symbolic—and I want members to understand that. Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to the Almighty’s redemptive purpose for his people, while the church—that is, his people—is described as the bride of Christ many times in the Bible. The differences between the two parties could hardly be clearer; equally, their complementarity is evident from the fact that it is those very people—the Christian church—who demonstrate the outworking of Christ’s love to each generation. That is why the so-called traditional view of marriage actually matters to the Christian church. Some will say that marriage is only a word—and they would be right. However, words have meaning and I am in no hurry to change the meaning of a word in our law when so much has been attached to it in our literature and liturgy.

Much of the evidence given to the committee relates to protections for those who do not want to have to celebrate same-sex marriages. I hope members will understand from what I have said that such views can be held without any feelings of homophobia; indeed, concern has also been expressed about the position of teachers.

I note first of all the general belief among witnesses that the proposed protections are strong but, secondly, the doubts that remain about the robustness of those protections, particularly in the context of European law and how that might develop over time. What is clear is that if the bill is enacted substantially as drafted the meaning of marriage will have been radically altered.

The cabinet secretary says that he will not regard his marriage as having been diminished by what is proposed. I understand his view and, indeed, hold a similar view about my own relationship with my wife. However, I remind members that a set is not defined by its present population but by its boundaries. What is being proposed will change marriage as an institution—and that will alter the context for everyone in the future. As Mr Spock would have put it, “It’s marriage, Jim, but not as we know it.”

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