Alyn Submits Equal Marriage Consultation Response

30 November 2011
Alyn Smith MEP has today submitted his response to the Scottish Government's consultation on Equal Marriage.

He has urged other Scots to get involved and make their views known before the consultation closes on 9th December.

In a covering note addressed to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Alyn wrote:

Dear Nicola,

I hope this finds you well.  I am glad of the opportunity to respond to this SNP government consultation.  While Equal Marriage is one issue amongst many facing our country, it is an important one, and a marker for what sort of society we are and indeed seek to build.  I commend you on both bringing this forward at all, and the thoughtful, open, dignified and respectful way in which you have done so.

I should declare an interest as a Director-designate of LGBT Youth Scotland, and indeed as an SNP Member of the European Parliament, but make this submission in a purely personal capacity.  I enclose a completed consultation paper, but my view can be summarised to a few paragraphs.

The creation of civil partnerships a number of years ago was a welcome step forward.  I was glad 100% of the SNP Members of the Westminster Parliament supported it.  However, what the state gave, the state also took away.  In creating a similar package of rights to marriage but inventing a different name for those rights, Westminster merely perpetuated the sense of "otherness" and lack of equality that too many LGBT people have had to face in many aspects of life for too long.  The further prohibition on religious celebrants from involvement in civil partnerships underlined that begrudged status.  The justification cited in favour of the status quo by some - that the rights are the same - is in fact the primary need for change.

It has saddened me that anyone in Scotland should feel threatened by this discussion.  Equality simply does not infringe the consciences of others, quite the reverse.  I have discussed this issue at length with many campaigning groups and all bar none have been keen to stress that the rights should not, indeed cannot, be forced upon those unwilling.  Nobody has ever sought to impose any view upon deeply held religious convictions, and freedom of conscience is every bit as important as equality.  I believe adequate legal safeguards can readily be found.

By the same token, where no individual group has a right to impose a view on any other, no religious institution has a monopoly right on the definition of marriage.  Nor indeed a right to seek to impose that view on the rest of society, composed of all faiths and none.  There are a number of views on this issue, and it is for us, as a society and as a nation, to come to a consensus on what marriage is.  For me, marriage is a bond of love and commitment between two people.  Their gender or sexuality simply do not enter into it.

We have an opportunity in Scotland to come up with a better, more decent, more dignified regime than that created for us at Westminster.  I have faith in the big hearts and good sense of the people of Scotland, as represented in our national Parliament, to come to a just conclusion.  If I can help in that process in any way please do let me know.

The consultation response is available on request from Leanne Dobson in Alyn's Edinburgh Office on leanne.dobson@snp.org.