It’s Time for a Vote

This week we get to a significant point in the campaign for more equal marriage law in Scotland. On Wednesday there will be a vote in the parliament at Holyrood. Whilst there has been a lot of pre-scrutiny of the legislation and a long political process already, this is the first time that members of parliament get to vote on the legislation.

At the moment, it looks as though there will be a commanding victory for those who want to see change. However, nothing should ever be presumed and people are still contacting their Members of Parliament to urge them to be supportive on Wednesday.

Interestingly, the vote itself is indicative of residual prejudice. It is still apparently acceptable to political parties to have their members being seen to deny the rights of gay people. They are having a free vote – that means there will be no political consequences to anyone voting against party policy on this matter.

Several analogies are helpful here – mixed race marriage, suicide/euthanasia, capital punishment and abortion. You see, if anyone was foolish enough to force a vote on whether black people could get married to white people then the parties would make it a whipped vote. (And let us not be silly enough to believe that such discrimination is a fantasy – I’ve members of my congregation who have lived under racist legislation concerning relationships). Should there ever be a vote to restrict the right of a mixed-race couple to marry then political parties would be queuing up firstly to condemn the idea of a vote in the first place and then to ensure that every one of their members voted the right way. There would be no question of a free vote or it being a “conscience issue”. When it comes to the gays, it is suddenly different.

Looking the other way, consider the votes that are traditionally free votes – they tend to be things like whether to allow euthenasia, whether to bring back hanging and what laws should apply to abortion. Making the votes on whether to allow same-sex couples to get hitched free (ie unwhipped) votes lumps this issue right in with those issues.

Now, straight friends, let me ask you. How would you feel if your own relationship (or potential for relationship) was regarded by parliamentary parties as being akin to euthenasia, hanging and the termination of a pregnancy? If you think it is unreasonable for your gay friends to be treated likewise then there are several things you can do. Firstly, if you are in Scotland then get in touch with your MSPs before Wednesday and urge them to support the proposed changes. (It just takes 2 minutes – see here). Remember, the political parties won’t be doing this – there’s just you to remind them. Secondly, look out for the news and keep up with when the next stages of this voting procedure are. Chances are we are looking at a final vote in the early stages of the new year. Thirdly tell others why you are supportive of this change. Fourthly, if you are a blogger, share your views as to why it’s time for change and pass the video below along. For another persective from St Mary’s on why it’s time, check out Beth’s blog.

And fifthly, take a look at this video one more time and enjoy the positive, joyful campaigning that has been characteristic of this struggle. There’s folk in it that you know. Trust me…

Online reading

Here’s some on-line reading.

The Doctrine Committee of the Scottish Episcopal Church published an essay earlier this year on Marriage and Human Intimacy. This is available now online for the first time along with the other previous essays which they have written.

There was a mini-brouhaha on twitter when one or two people actually read it this afternoon and started to recount the ways in which it is offensive. The bit about scientific evidence for gay people reacting to sweat differently to straight people seems to be the bit that has caused most offence. Silliest is perhaps: “Gay men tend to weigh less than heterosexual men and
to have shorter limbs and hands.”

By far the most offensive thing about it from my point of view is that on being asked at General Synod whether any gay people had been engaged, consulted or included in the process, the convener of the group answered in the negative.

Do I need to spell it out? If we were doing a piece of work about women but all the writers were men…..if we were doing something about disability and no-one bothered to speak to anyone in a wheelchair…..


There will be plenty more to say about this later, but for now read it. It is designed to provoke debate and is an invitation to respond.

The essay is available here.

Rather more positively we have a good article in the White Rose, the magazine of Old St Paul’s church in Edinburgh.

Towards the end of a long article, well worth reading, Ian Paton, their Rector says:

As far as I can see, therefore, there is no obvious reason why such Godgiven humanity should not be affirmed in same-sex relationships as well as in heterosexual ones. No relationships are perfect, whatever the sexual orientation of the persons involved, but they all contain the potential to reveal that God-given humanity.

Despite the prejudices and ignorance of many people, which I have shared on the past, gay and lesbian people themselves have developed ways of finding, establishing and celebrating life-long relationships of mutual commitment and joy. For myself, I
can see no reason, in the Bible or in Tradition, for preventing those relationships from being equally
acknowledged and affirmed, with those of heterosexual couples, as marriages blessed by God, signs and sacraments of God’s committed and joyful love for the world.

When he is not busy being the Rector of Old St Paul’s, Fr Ian also happens to convene the Liturgy Committee in our church.

You can find that here.