Jean has welcomed MSPs’ overwhelming support for marriage equality, as the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was passed on a vote of 105-18 this evening.
“I was very proud to cast my vote for marriage equality this evening. This is an historic and joyful occasion for Scotland, and for our LGBT community in particular, who have for so long been denied the choice that so many of us take for granted – the choice to say ‘I do’.
“I particularly want to congratulate the Equality Network, Stonewall Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament, who have done so much to help us get to the finish line.
“Marriage equality is a freedom that is long overdue. I can well remember when homosexuality itself was a crime, and we achieved civil partnerships only ten years ago. But support for this move is well-established in Scotland: research back in 2010 found that less than one in five Scots wanted to deny same-sex couples the right to marry .
“I am delighted by this positive step, but I entirely understand that there are those religious organisations who oppose marriage equality. It’s important to reassure them that they have nothing to fear from this law – it permits them to celebrate same-sex marriages should they choose to, but comes with a cast-iron guarantee that they will not be forced to do so. We can look abroad for further evidence – the Catholic Church told MSPs that in the many countries that already have marriage equality laws, it has never been compelled to conduct a same-sex marriage.
“In fact, this law increases religious liberty, allowing denominations such as Quakers, Unitarians, Reform and Liberal Judaism, the Metropolitan Community Church and the Open Episcopal Church the freedom to celebrate same-sex marriages according with their faith. That is a freedom that remains denied to religious organisations in England and Wales.
“Of course there is much more to be done, both in eliminating homophobic discrimination at home and defending equality in other countries – for example, I hope Russia’s appalling treatment of LGBT people will be highlighted during the Sochi Winter Olympics that start on Friday.
“But this law is a huge step towards true equality. It eliminates the last big legal discrimination against LGBT people in Scotland, and contributes to our growing reputation as a progressive beacon in the world.”