Presiding Officer, I thank you for the opportunity to take part in the debate.
I have been contacted by a large proportion of my constituents about the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, the majority of whom are opposed to the bill. My constituent Ronnie Mathieson questions why we are redefining a word—marriage—that once meant one thing to mean something different. He suggests that all previous literature, text books, records, legislation, poetry, plays, songs and so on will have to be dated and have footnotes to explain the change of Scottish terminology. He suggested in an email to me that there already appears to be a legal challenge to the watertight safeguards in the similar English legislation. Will this bill be watertight? I do not think so, and many others repeat that observation.
I heard from my constituent Mrs Morris, who is concerned that people who do not support same-sex marriage will suffer in the workplace. Other constituents, such as Ms Young, have concerns that ministers of religion could be prosecuted for refusing to marry same-sex couples.
I asked the cabinet secretary about adoption earlier. I had a letter from my constituent Anne McCool, who said:
“I would ask you to look very carefully at the introduction of safeguards for people who believe in the existing definition of marriage. There is a danger that foster carers or adopters may be classed as unsuitable because of their opposition to same-sex marriage. The government’s suggested solutions for fostering guidance is not good enough. I would be grateful if you would highlight the following concerns.
(A) That a clause be inserted in the Bill that views on the nature of marriage should not be considered during the approval process for foster carers and adopters
(B) That a statutory safeguard should be introduced into the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill to ensure that what people think about same-sex marriage does not influence decisions on their applications to be adoptive parents.”
As I said earlier, 30 years ago I was an adoptive parent and, because of my views, I do not think that I would have passed.