Today I made a submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on their Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Submissions close 5pm Wednesday 20 March 2013(Scottish time). Below is the text of comments which I made in addition to the model response to the Bill provided on the Equal Marriage UK website: http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/takeaction I encourage other people to make a submission if you have time.
I am writing this submission in support of marriage equality as an Australian of Scottish descent, and therefore someone who wishes to see Scotland leading on a key progressive issue. I am also a gay man, engaged to be married to a wonderful partner, but currently prohibited from doing so by my own government. As a result, I am keenly aware of the negative consequences of the imposition of inequality in relationship recognition on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.
I do not propose to detail the general arguments in favour marriage equality here because I am confident that LGBTI people in Scotland, and their families and friends, will be able to do so far more eloquently than I could. However, from my vantage point on the other side of the world, I do wish to highlight the potential symbolic importance of a move by the government of Scotland to finally accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as equal citizens.
I sincerely believe that the introduction of marriage equality by the Scottish parliament would have precedent value for other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. As one of the first countries colonised by the English, and one of the last to adopt any form of self-government, Scotland embracing LGBTI human rights in this way would demonstrate that it is possible to overcome the history of homophobia which often accompanied imperialism.
Together with the expected passage of marriage equality in England and Wales in the near future, and on top of earlier moves by Canada and South Africa, Scotland would be sending a signal to other members of the Commonwealth that LGBTI people deserve equal treatment under the law. This is especially important because 41 Commonwealth countries continue to impose criminal penalties for homosexuality, and with homosexuality attracting life imprisonment in six of these.
There are also two upcoming events of symbolic significance within Scotland which, I believe, would be enhanced by the passage of marriage equality. The first is the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and August 2014. I think it would be a wonderful achievement if these were to be the first games held on soil where LGBTI people were full and equal citizens. This would deliver a message of acceptance of different sexual orientations, gender identities and of intersex people to those Commonwealth countries who attend.
The second event with symbolic significance is the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, which is currently expected to be held in the autumn of 2014. I submit that it is important to remove the blemish of legislated discrimination against LGBTI people ahead of this referendum: if the Scottish people are to embrace independence, then surely all of its citizens should be able to celebrate this achievement as equals. This newly-independent country, if that is the outcome of the referendum, should be able to start its life with a clean slate, and not one that has been tarnished by homophobia, bi-phobia, trans-phobia and anti-intersex prejudice.
Of course, I am not writing this submission completely unmotivated by self-interest. If Scotland were to adopt marriage equality, it would add another name to the long list of countries which have left Australia behind on this issue. Our near neighbours New Zealand look likely to do the same in the next few months. Hopefully, as the marriage equality movement continues to sweep the world, my own government will finally be embarrassed into action on this issue.
Leaving self-interest aside, and irrespective of the symbolic arguments which I have outlined above, the most powerful argument in favour of marriage equality must always be the thousands of LGBTI-inclusive couples in Scotland who would be able to take advantage of this Bill if and when it is eventually passed. The happiness of these couples would be immeasurably increased by a law which does not deny anyone else their rights, but simply extends the rights which one group already has to other communities.
I know how important and affirming it would be to have legal recognition of my relationship with my fiancé. The LGBTI people of Scotland are no different in terms of their hopes and aspirations for full legal equality. I hope that Scottish parliamentarians listen to these voices before deciding whether to say “Yes” or “No” to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Ultimately, any person should be able to determine for themselves whether to say “I do”.