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 Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

That description

“of the glorious diversity of human beings” from Elaine Murray just sums everything up. That was great.

I am pleased to take part in the debate today because I feel that it has been a long time coming, although that might be a mark of my own frustration about things. I looked back at the debate that took place during the passing of the 2004 legislation for civil partnerships, and at that time, I asked:

“How can anyone sit here and say that it is equality if same-sex couples are not allowed to manifest their faith in the same way that mixed-sex couples can”—[Official Report, 3 June 2004; c 8935.]

even if the minister is happy to carry out the ceremony? I still feel that way. I just cannot get my head round the idea that some people should be treated differently from others; it just very, very wrong.

However, it may well be that, although I saw civil partnerships as a temporary solution that ought to be quickly overtaken, it was right at the time that that step was taken, so that we could move on. The figures that Jackie Baillie cited on how social attitudes have changed perhaps indicate that it was correct to introduce civil partnerships.

I have been struck by the amount of personal testimony that has been given; members have been extremely brave. No one need get their notebook out—I am not about to say anything stunning—but I would like to illustrate how time moves on and attitudes change. Thirty-odd years ago, my standing up and saying, “You know what? I’m not married. I live in sin,” might have been as stunning as saying the things that we have heard some members say today. Now, no one cares about that. In the 1960s, it might have been stunning to hear an 11-year-old say, “You know what? My mum’s just run off with another man and my mum and dad are going to get divorced.” I was that 11-year-old. I hid that from people at school, from neighbours and from other people I met for a couple of years because I was ashamed of it. According to social mores at the time, a child’s parents getting divorced was extremely shocking.

What we are doing today is extremely important and represents a natural step forward. I hope that we get to the point—when I am no longer here—when someone, in the course of explaining to Parliament something that had been taboo for many years, says, “You’ll never guess what. It’s not that long ago that same-sex marriages were something that people found it really difficult to talk about. People found it hard to say that they were in a same-sex relationship because that was what was right for them.” To me, the issue is just about equality—straight, simple equality. It is about accepting people the way they are. Why cannot everyone just accept people the way they are if they are not hurting anyone else? It is extremely simple.

That brings me on to the spousal veto. I had intended to talk about it more, but I am aware that other members want to speak. I was pleased to hear the minister say in his opening remarks that he would look at the spousal veto on legal gender recognition, whereby the spouse of a person who has been through the whole process can still prevent them from having their gender legally recognised. That must be looked at, so I am glad that the minister said that he would do so.

I would like to give due recognition to everyone who has worked so hard for same-sex marriage. There is a great wee book called “Six Reasons to Support Equal Marriage” by the Equality Network. What struck me when I looked through it was how happy everyone in it looks—it is such a happy document—and when we were standing outside in the wet mud getting our photographs taken earlier today, it struck me how happy everyone is that the bill is going ahead. Let us not lose that sentiment. We should be extremely happy that we are moving forward in such a way.

It is true that we still have a way to go, but what we are doing today is very good for Parliament and—in the longer term, even though some may not feel that way now—for everyone in it. It is also very good for Scotland, and we should celebrate that.