Holyrood passes marriage equality

Scotland Backs Equal MarriageJean 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.

Jean said:

“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 [1].

“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.”

Press release on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill

Below is an official press release on my views about the Equal Marriage Bill, which I voted in favour of last week.

“HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS MSP WELCOMES EQUAL MARRIAGE VOTE

Independent Highland and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has spoken of her delight at last week’s Holyrood vote for equal marriage, and congratulated the Government on creating strong protections for those with a religious objection. On Wednesday 20 November, MSPs voted 98 to 15 to approve the general principles of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. There was also a clear majority of Highlands and Islands MSPs in favour, with 10 voting for the Bill, 3 against and 2 absent from the vote [1].

Ms Urquhart said:

“Discrimination against same-sex couples is unconscionable and shameful – I can’t imagine the pain and frustration of being told by the state that you cannot marry the person you love. I was incredibly proud to cast my vote for equal marriage last week, and delighted that such an overwhelming number of MSPs, including two-thirds of my Highlands and Islands colleagues, did so too.

“The Bill promotes the religious freedom of denominations – such as Reform Judaism, Unitarians and Quakers – who wish to conduct same-sex marriages, while preserving that of religious groups who oppose them. In the dozens of countries that have adopted equal marriage laws, many of which are under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights, not one has ever forced religious organisations to conduct same-sex unions. The protections written into this Bill mean that Scotland will be no different, though I hope in time more faith organisations will freely choose to end discrimination against same-sex couples.”

ENDS

For more information or comment, please contact Gary Cocker on gary.cocker@scottish.parliament.uk or 0131 348 5053.

Notes to editors:

1. Highlands and Islands MSPs voting for the Bill: Jean Urquhart (Ind, H&I), John Finnie (Ind, H&I), Mike MacKenzie (SNP, H&I), David Stewart (Lab, H&I), Rhoda Grant (Lab, H&I), Mary Scanlon (Con, H&I), Michael Russell (SNP, Argyll and Bute), Rob Gibson (SNP, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross), Richard Lochhead (SNP, Moray), Liam McArthur (LD, Orkney Islands).

Highlands and Islands MSPs voting against the Bill: Jamie McGrigor (Con, H&I), Alasdair Allan (Lab, Na h-Eileanan an Iar), Fergus Ewing (SNP, Inverness and Nairn).

Highlands and Islands MSPs absent: David Thompson (Lab, Ross, Skye and Inverness West), Tavish Scott (LD, Shetland Islands).

The full Official Report of the debate and vote is available at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28862.aspx?r=8647&mode=html#iob_78286