I was glued to my computer last night watching the debate from the Scottish Parliament on introducing the legislation that will one day soon, allow same-sex couples to get married.
It is difficult to describe what it was like watching it. In touch with others on twitter, I was aware of a certain amount of nervousness from some of those who have been campaigning on this. It isn’t surprising – a lot of work has gone into this. However, it was not just parliamentary process that was affecting me last night. It was the sight of one politician after another standing up and speaking positively about gay couples they know, changes in society that have made life easier for gay people or in some cases talking about themselves as gay parliamentarians. It is difficult for me to convey what this feels like to straight people. When I was growing up you simply saw no-one say anything positive about something that is pretty fundamental to who you are. Indeed, you either got negative messages or a corrupting silence which you somehow knew you were supposed to keep.
Times have changed and that is why evenings like last night mean so much and in the end it was a decisive victory in the Parliament – 98 votes to 15 with five abstentions.
Later on in the evening I was asked to go on Scotland Tonight on STV. It was a very enjoyable interview.
Here’s some of the things I said:
- Watching my twitter and facebook feeds light up when the vote came through was like watching the lights on a Christmas tree all light up.
- This was a sophisticated and respectful debate and was the Parliament working well.
- I don’t agree with issues like this being dealt with as a free vote but it was not a night for reservations but for celebrations.
- The debate brought out the fact that support for same-sex couples being treated like everyone else extends into the churches. Increasingly people want equality for same-sex couples.
- This is one of the fastest social changes that there has ever been. It is happening and it is happening now.
- We don’t want any more “safeguards” in the bill – they are largely unnecessary anyway.
- The Parliament has ensured that the country can go forward together. No-one is forced to do anything.
- There’s still more to do around education, language (see the new Stonewall “Gay – let’s get the meaning straight” campaign) and support.
- This is an amazing stepping stone towards equality.