Now I know that some members of my own party who consider the issue of same sex marriage a matter on conscience and not one we should form a firm policy on. However, with the aid of Calum Cashley the SNP PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith I’d like to prick that conscience just a little.
We as Liberal Democrats are the party of equality. The preamble to our constitution opens
"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives."
So let’s look at the parallel that Calum draws between Civil Partnerships and marriage designation in Apartheid era South Africa. There was a designation of interracial marriage which was viewed as substandard, below other partnerships. There were plenty of Liberals whose conscience led them to protest against that state of affairs, a young Peter Hain among them. There was no problem in forming policy against the Apartheid regime.
Calum says he not sure what the differences are between a Civil Partnership and a marriage, there are a number.
He gets the first one that there is a distinction in the name just as same sex couples cannot have a marriage; mixed-sexed couples cannot get a civil partnership. The Government claims it is the same yet there is a distinction there, one group is set aside from the rest of society with a second class designation.
The next issue is that while you can have a religious, humanist or civil marriage as a mixed sex couple, a religious or humanist celebrant is not able to solemnise a same sex union, if they want to. The assumption is that because you are in a same sex relationship you are outside the religious flock and would not want to join with your life partner in a religious context.
The final thrust of the equal marriage campaign is dealing with gender recognition and the anomaly that they face should one partner seek to alter their legally recognised gender under the terms of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. They are no longer able to remain either married or civil partnered once that event happens even they remain in love and wish to remain together. They then of course would also face the issue if they wish to re-union in not being able to have the same type of union as previously.
So while Calum and I have a different idea of the governance style of what form a fair society for Scotland will take we can agree on this issue.
Update: I Uhmed and Ahhed about the title for this post since I wrote it, but decided to change it from "A Nats Backing For Marriage Fairness" to the new one to reflect on Calum's comments. In the end I decided to take a leaf out of Charlotte Gore's book.