Herald Article: Pride and Frustration

This article appeared in the Herald newspaper today.

I will be joining the Pride Glasgow march this weekend with mixed feelings – pride at how much has been achieved and concern at how much that needs to be done.

I’ll be marching with hopes high that before Pride comes around next year, the Scottish Parliament will have passed new laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. Marriage law is one of the greatest barriers to equality for gay people in Scotland. Access to marriage isn’t the only big change gay people need. However, it remains such a big prize for gay campaigners because those marching through Glasgow all know how much social attitudes have softened since civil partnerships came in and all hope for even more once same-sex marriage is part of our common life.

Changes to the law are hugely welcome, but still don’t represent equality – just ask any gay couple wanting to get married in church on the same basis as the straight couple sitting in the pew next to them. The overly cautious legislation that will be passed next year is a consequence of politicians still giving credence to religious voices of intolerance.

Another issue that still needs a lot of work is access to education free from prejudice. It means education authorities and individual schools working on homophobic bullying. Part of the means of achieving that is to ensure that gay teachers in schools are able to be the role models that both gay and straight kids need. Those teachers need to know that they can live outside school time without fear of what might happen in school if their relationships are known about.

Notwithstanding the high spirits that are a feature of every Pride march, I’ll be marching to express a good dose of anger and frustration. Every Pride is a celebration but every Pride is a protest too. This time the most immediate part of the world which is causing concern is Russia. President Putin’s sudden recent crackdown against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has been brutal, unexpected and frightening and greatly under-reported in the mainstream media in the UK. Glasgow’s Lord Provost’s letter to her opposite number in twinned Rostov-on-Don this week is welcome but far too weak. She has invited a delegation from Russia to “share more of our good experience of working to include LGBT citizens as a valued part of our city”. Meanwhile, Glasgow’s actual LGBT citizens might be rather puzzled, given the history and demise of the LGBT centre in the city, as to how that support is being expressed.

This weekend at Pride, I’ll be marching, as usual, with thousands of others. This time, though, I’ll be marching with members of my own congregation. There will be several older members coming along to march in support of their gay and lesbian children and grandchildren. I’ll be marching alongside a couple whose civil partnership I’ll be blessing in a couple of weeks as they make their journey towards legal marriage. Alongside me there will be clergy from my own Scottish Episcopal Church and ecumenical friends in the crowd in clerical-collars answering all the usual questions that arise about how to find a church that is open, inclusive and welcoming to all. I’ll also be walking alongside a young straight couple who have told me they want to bring their toddler, a member of the Young Church at St Mary’s Cathedral. They want to be able to tell him he was at Pride the year of the legislation allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. My earliest memory is of being woken by my parents to see the moon landings. These days, for some parents bringing up children, equalizing the law on marriage is the equivalent kind of life defining moment.

And I’ll be marching with LGBT folk from my congregation too; people who work and struggle and pray for justice in the church and beyond. I march this year because I’m immensely proud of them all.


  1. Brother David says

    I am a bit confused here. Most nations in the Americas allow individual religious groups to discriminate on whatever basis they wish; race ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, handy capability, etc. It is their right based on both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Are you folks in Europe stating that religious groups should not be allowed such discrimination?

  2. No, that isn’t the issue, Brother David.

    The issue is over who is or is not allowed to take a same-sex wedding and how they are licensed or permitted to do so.

    I think that if someone is licensed to conduct a same-sex mixed-sex wedding then they automatically shold be licensed to conduct a same-sex wedding.

    However, the current government proposal means that a whole denomination must opt into the same-sex marriage business rather than individual celebrants.

    Thus, we could well have a situation whereby same-sex marriage will be legal but it wouldn’t be legal for me to conduct such a ceremony even though I might want to and even though my congregation (or even diocese) might want me to.

  3. frdougal says

    Pedant strike: surely you meant to write “if someone is licensed to conduct a mixed sex wedding then they should automatically…”?

    Personally, I go with the idea that individual officiants should be given a conscience opt out clause. Sadly however, there is a “catholicity/church order” issue. The officiant is not purely a individual of conscience but also a representative of their parent body. Thus I think it would be really impossible for a liberal minded RC priest to be given such legal freedom without effectively getting chucked out. The SEC i suspect will get there on freedom to conduct SSM’s but not until AFTER the legislation goes through. We will be very unlikely to anticipate it.

    • I think that denominations should have the right to exercise their own discipline over their own clergy and be able to prevent someone who is legally able to marry a couple from doing so.

      I don’t think that the law should collude one way or another in making that determination.

      Yes, I did mean mixed-sex wedding. I’ve corrected it.

  4. We are very proud of you, too.

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