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 Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

My view is in the minority and, if Mark McDonald does not mind, I will use the time that is available to me to develop it coherently.

The decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1980 was an important milestone in tackling the historic discrimination against LGBT people, but same-sex couples in stable and loving relationships still had no legal rights vis-à-vis their partners for many years. If one partner was hospitalised, the other had no legal right to be given any information about their illness or care because they were deemed not to be a relative. The Civil Partnership Act 2004, together with the inclusion of same-sex cohabitees in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, ended that terrible injustice. Provision was made to recognise legal rights to, for example, inheritance and property ownership for same-sex couples.

The point is that discrimination has been addressed, as I have described. In seeking to go further and to redefine marriage, the Government is blurring the distinction between state or civil provision, in which it has a role to play, and religious belief and teaching, in which it does not.

Furthermore, people who believe passionately in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman have felt empathy with the LGBT community and have supported and campaigned to eliminate discrimination against it. They did so because that is the fair and right thing to do, despite warnings and fears being voiced that marriage would be undermined. Those same people now find that there is little reciprocal empathy and, sometimes, little tolerance for their views.

With the attempt to redefine marriage, the pendulum has swung too far. Passing the bill will do nothing to address the totally unacceptable abuse of LGBT individuals, which still exists and includes, for example, instances of homosexuals within the Asian community being forced into heterosexual marriages.

However, if the bill is passed, people who oppose same-sex marriage and who already feel inhibited in expressing that view will, ultimately, be more apprehensive about expressing their religious beliefs—regardless of the well-intentioned proposals for safeguards.

There is nothing remotely fair about seeking to dismiss and diminish the deeply held convictions and religious beliefs of thousands of people in Scotland who attend church, temple or mosque, who work hard to do their best for their families and who go about their everyday business without imposing their views on anyone else. That is why I will vote against the bill.