That is my point. The bill allows the religions and the churches to opt in or opt out as they require and as they want, and to develop at their own pace.
It remains my view that the proposal is about consistency more than it is about equality. Marriage is permitted for one set of individuals, and there has to be a very good reason if we are to exclude another set of individuals. I believe that, in order to be consistent, and because society accepts same-sex relationships, there is no good reason to exclude them from marriage—certainly not on the basis of what sex the person whom someone falls in love with happens to be.
When I travel around my constituency and visit schools or meet young constituents, the idea of opposition to the bill is met with what I can only describe as bafflement. My experience has been that the younger generation supports the proposal’s aims in overwhelming numbers. If religion does not evolve, and if the state does not allow it to evolve when it wants to do so, we risk excluding those younger voices from a tradition that is woven intrinsically into the basic fabric of our society. In his eloquent speech in the debate on same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, the Earl of Courtown warned of the danger and implored his fellow peers to
“allow the next generation not to reject the traditions of yesteryear but to build the traditions of the future.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 3 June 2013; c 1042.]
His words are as true here as they were in Westminster.
Our society has found itself at similar crossroads before now. In the past 20 years we have debated, passionately and often robustly, section 28, the lowering of the age of consent, gay adoptions and civil partnerships. In each case, I am proud that our progressive democratic tradition eventually prevailed. Today, we in the Scottish Parliament have the opportunity to add our voices to that tradition and the privilege of contributing to our society’s progress.
I will vote for the bill. It is the right thing to do for our country, it is the right thing to do for our church, and it is the right thing to do to strengthen the wonderful institution of marriage.