Same-Sex Marriage Moves Forward in Scotland

Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament voted 98-15 to advance a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage in Scotland: "The vote, which took place Wednesday night in Scotland, essentially passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill on its first reading, allowing the legislation to move to the Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee, where lawmakers will consider amendments, before seeking a final vote from members of parliament, likely in early 2014. If the bill passes out of committee and through its third reading before the full parliament, same-sex couples could begin marrying in Scotland next year."

During the parliamentary debate, Ruth Davidson, the leader of Scotland's Conservative Party, took to the floor to speak in favor of the bill [content note for homophobia, bullying, and self-harm]:

MSP Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives: This debate is not easy, and I don't think it was ever going to be. When areas of love meet the law, where belief, commitment, and faith collide with legislation, the waters will always be difficult to navigate. I therefore commend all of the contributors to this debate in the past few months and years, who have sought to make thoughtful contributions, to elevate the ideas and to temper the language, displaying a respect for beliefs which differ from their own, but recognizing that those beliefs are just as sincerely held. And I hope that that temperance will continue this evening, demonstrating that, while this may be a fledgling Parliament, it has a maturity, too.

And it is precisely because of the nature of this debate that I believe that this bill is a matter of conscience. And that's why, similar to other parties, Scottish Conservative members have been given a free vote.

So, today, I speak on behalf only of myself. In fact, I have no doubt that this could possibly be the most personal speech I ever make in the chamber. And I hope to explain why I support the broadest principle of this bill—and that is the principle of extending marriage.

I believe in that principle because I believe in marriage. I believe that marriage is a good thing. I saw the evidence of that every day growing up in a house that was full of love. And while my own family had all the stresses and strains that were common to all, there was never any doubt or question or fear in my mind that our togetherness was in any way insecure.

And the bedrock of that stability and security was my parents' marriage. And that stability helped me and my sister to flourish and have confidence that we could be whoever we wanted to be. More than 40 years married, and my parents still love each other. And I look at what they have and I want that too, and I want it to be recognised in the same way. And that recognition matters.

Presiding Officer, from childhood, you have known without even thinking that if you found someone that you loved and who loved you in return, you had the right to marry them. That same unthinking right to marry extended to the cabinet secretary; the leader of the Labour Party has that right also; so, too, does the leader of the Liberal Democrats. I want that right to extend not just to me, but also to the thousands of people across Scotland who are told that the law says no. They can't marry the love of their life. They're not allowed—and, unless we change the law, they will never be allowed.

And it does matter, Presiding Officer. It matters that a whole section of our society is told that they can have the facsimile of civil partnership, but they can't have the real thing. It's not for them. Their love is something different; it's something less. Their commitment is denied.

I don't want the next generation of young gay people to grow up as I did, believing that marriage is something they can never have. We have the opportunity, with this bill, to change that—and to change the attitudes, and even the stigma, that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can still evoke, and which can cause so much harm.

[She yields to a question.]

MSP Jamie Hepburn: I thank Ruth Davidson for giving way in what I think is a very eloquent contribution; I am enjoying it very much. She spoke about the next generation. I am the father of two very young children. I don't know what their sexual orientation will be, but, in the circumstances that they grow up and have a same-sex attraction, what would the member say, if this Parliament failed to legislate for the provision that's before us today, what would you suggest that I should say to them in futures if they wanted to be married? How—how would she think that I could look at them in the face and say that this Parliament missed the opportunity to give them that right?

Davidson: Well, I would hope that their father had helped vote them the opportunity to have them going forward. And I think that talking about the next generation is important, because it is them for whom we must think of.

Last year, the University of Cambridge conducted a huge body of research; it was called "The School Report." The researchers spoke to hundreds of LGBT pupils right across the UK who were open about their sexuality. A majority said that they were the victims of homophobic bullying, and that it happened to them in their school. More than half deliberately self-harmed. Nearly a quarter had attempted to take their own life on at least one occasion.

These are our children, and they are made to feel so much guilt and shame and despair. And we have an opportunity today to make it better for them. Because, at the moment, we tell these young people, we tell them, "You are good enough to serve in our armed forces. You are good enough to care in our hospitals. You are good enough to teach in our schools. But you are not good enough to marry the person you love and who loves you in return."

We tell them, "You are something different, something less, something other, and that marriage, that dream, that gold standard—that does not apply to you. You don't get to have it." And that apartheid message, that "same but different," that alien quality, that otherness—that is what is reflected in every hurtful comment, every slander, every exclusion and every abuse, whether it takes place in the school playground, on the factory floor, or in the local pub.

And that's why this bill matters. It matters, yes, to those people who will directly benefit from it, those couples today who are eager to commit their relationship in marriage and who I believe should be allowed to do so. But more than that, it matters to the future nature of our country—because we have an opportunity today to tell our nation's children that, no matter where they live and no matter who it is that they love, there is nothing that they can't do; that we will wipe away the last legal barrier which says that they are something lesser than their peers.

We can help them to walk taller into the playground tomorrow and to face their accuser down, knowing that the Parliament of their country has stood up for them and said that they are every bit as good as every one of their classmates—a Parliament that has said that they deserve the same rights as everybody else.

Presiding Officer, I believe in marriage. I believe it is a good thing to be celebrated, and I want everybody in Scotland to know that marriage is open to them. I support the principles of this bill.

All the blubs forever.

I imagine some of you may be thinking that her emphasis on two-person marriage being the "gold standard" of all possible relationship structures is kind of shitty, and it is. But to put this into perspective, the Scottish Conservative Party is the most conservative of the five parties currently seated in the Scottish Parliament: The Scottish National Party, the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Green Party, and the Scottish Conservative Party. (There are also three Independent members currently seated.)

This is, broadly, the equivalent of a Tea Party Republican standing up on the floor of the House and mounting an impassioned argument for same-sex marriage.

Conservative Republicans should watch this video and be rightly shamed. This is what conservatism can look like—and does, in other places.

Six of Davidson's 15-member caucus voted with her.

[H/T to Shaker Richard Gadsden.]

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