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 Anne McTaggart Anne McTaggart Labour

As an MSP representing the large, diverse and multicultural region of Glasgow, I believe that it is part of my duty to tackle prejudice, intolerance and discrimination in all forms, not only because prejudice impacts on the lives of those who experience it, but because it holds us back as a nation.

The passing of the bill will have both legal and symbolic significance for LGBT people and their families, who are often on the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination. As Ruth Davidson said in her eloquent speech, recent research tells us that one in four young people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual have seriously contemplated or attempted suicide. That figure is a disgrace in modern Scotland. I truly believe that by eliminating some remaining differences, we can remove the stigma that affects so many of our young people.

As has been mentioned, access to civil partnerships was a huge, commendable step forward, but it ensured that a division between same-sex and mixed-sex couples carried on into the 21st century. I believe that opening up the institution of marriage would achieve true legal equality for the first time. I recognise that equality does not mean that we all have to be the same, but in my view it means sharing the institution of marriage with those who have suffered discrimination, oppression and persecution for centuries.

I also believe that the principle of equality should be extended to heterosexual couples who would like their relationship to be recognised in a different way. I have argued that civil partnerships should be extended to mixed-sex couples who choose to celebrate their relationship in a civil or secular ceremony outside of traditional marriage. As a consequence of denying heterosexual people access to civil partnerships, we are, once again, segregating couples based on their sexual orientation. That is outdated and it is something that the bill should seek to remove fully from our society.

I recognise that the proposal of same-sex marriage is challenging to many people of faith and to some of our religious organisations. I have Christian values and I understand the view that marriage is an institution specific to the relationship between one man and one woman. Although I do not share that view, I passionately believe that those who hold it should be free to express it. That is why I am reassured to note that no religious organisation will be forced to perform same-sex marriages against its will and that religious freedoms will be protected by the bill.

Attitudes are changing. In Parliaments throughout the world, greater recognition for same-sex couples is high on the agenda. We should not be left behind on the issue and I look forward to being part of the Parliament that brought this long overdue legislation to the people of Scotland.

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