Scottish Parliament to debate equal marriage within next few weeks

Caron It's TimeWhile Scotland was first to get moving on equal marriage, England beat us to passing legislation. I really enjoyed writing this post celebrating all the Liberal Democrats, from LGBT+ Liberal Democrats all the way to Nick Clegg and Lynne Featherstone, who had championed that particular cause.

Now the Scottish Bill is finally expected to have it’s first debate before the end of this month. Today, the Parliamentary Committee considering it published its report in favour of the Bill. I was quite amused to see that whoever posted the list of those who’d submitted written evidence doesn’t know the difference between a + and a & when referring to LGBT+ Lib Dems. As ever, they submitted a very thoughtful and helpful submission arguing strongly, among other things, for the removal of the spousal veto for transgender people.

The Equality Network held its annual reception at Holyrood on Tuesday night. One of the speakers was a woman called Amanda Forde. She and her partner Mike have been together for 11 years, through his transition. She made the point that no spouse in that situation actually wanted a veto and she expressed her horror at the notion that she could have that sort of power over another human being, let alone someone she loved. This is from her submission to the Equal Opportunities Committee:

The current situation where a couple are forced to divorce in order for one partner to obtain a GRC is cruel and unnecessary. However I disagree with the ‘spousal veto’. As the partner of a trans person and having supported numerous other partners, I do not feel that it is right or necessary that a spouse should have that control over the legal recognition of their partner’s gender. Cisgendered (non-trans) partners’ thoughts and feelings are often disregarded or minimised when it comes to transition. I believe much more support should be available. However this aspect of the bill will not resolve any of that. I agree with the Equality Network’s suggestion: We therefore believe that spousal consent should not be required for the granting of gender recognition, but should instead be required for the subsequent re-registration of the marriage and the issue of a new marriage certificate. As at present, the non-trans spouse would continue to be able to obtain a divorce in such circumstances, if they wished to end the marriage.

We’ll have to see if the Scottish Government accepts the Committee’s recommendation. If not, we’ll need someone to take this up in the same, reasonable manner that Julian Huppert did at Westminster. I’m looking at you, Willie Rennie.

Willie spoke at Tuesday night’s reception as one of its co-sponsors. Like Nick Clegg, he’s been an enthusiastic supporter of equal marriage since before it was fashionable. He talked about how a young man had come up to him in the street in Dunfermline and thanked him because his support had given him confidence that it was ok to be who he was.

Dyke March's rainbow cake photoYou can see lots of pictures of the event on the Equality Network’s Facebook group here. You’ll see lots of smiling faces which was due in no small part to the delicious cakes on offer, including a spectacular rainbow cake. I didn’t get near it while it was still in one piece, but thankfully Dyke March Scotland did.

One highlight of the night was hearing Scotland’s Loud and Proud LGBT choir singing Pokarekare Ana. That’s the Maori love song sung in the New Zealand parliament when they passed their equal marriage legislation earlier this year.

Just because it’s Friday afternoon, and I need something nice to think about after Lynne Featherstone and the Liberal Democrats didn’t even get a mention at the Stonewall Awards last night, here’s the song I hope we’ll all be singing when this bill passes its final hurdle at Holyrood – Pride by Amy MacDonald, as featured in the Equal Marriage campaign’s “It’s Time” video.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • jenny barnes 9th Nov '13 - 10:01am

    “the non-trans spouse would continue to be able to obtain a divorce in such circumstances, if they wished to end the marriage”
    What happened to those wedding vows? Till death us do part, unless you decide that who you are is a bit socially unacceptable? Why trans? why not other changes in people’s self identity? Let’s say your partner joins the local Biker group – divorce? Takes up fishing? – divorce?

  • Stuart Mitchell 9th Nov '13 - 11:17am

    @jenny barnes
    That’s a breathtakingly illiberal view. People should have the right to choose not to be married to a person of a certain gender, and don’t deserve to be sneered at for having such a preference.

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