Last month I was delighted to support Pride Scotia Edinburgh, an annual festival celebrating diversity and personal identity among Scotland’s LGBT community.
The event has been running for a number of years and has evolved into a huge event including a pride march and community festival featuring live music and a health and community fair.
This year, the big issue that has been grabbing the headlines has been equal marriage. I am a strong supporter of the Equality Network’s campaign to ensure that marriage is an option available to all couples who choose to make this commitment irrespective of their sexual orientation.
I also back the campaign’s efforts to allow faith groups who wish to conduct same-sex marriages to do so while not placing an obligation on faith groups that are opposed to the idea.
The rally was addressed by a number of campaigners and politicians who spoke eloquently on equal marriage. I used the opportunity to widen the discussion and talk about other LGBT issues.
I spoke about the work of Waverley Care, an Edinburgh based organisation promoting the welfare and support of people, and the families of people affected by HIV/AIDS. The organisation provides specific support services for gay men, helping them to feel less isolated by encouraging them to speak to other men in a similar situation. The project gives these men the confidence to get on with their lives.
I also spoke about the campaign group Stonewall Scotland who work to highlight a range of issues. A recent report from the group highlighted the fact that health services directed at gay and bi-sexual men focussed almost exclusively on sexual health ignoring other areas of concern like mental health services.
A recent study, commissioned by Stonewall, aimed to highlight attitudes towards LGBT people in Scotland. The results found that 60% of Scots believe people still face prejudice based on sexual orientation and that homophobic and transphobic bullying is common in school and workplaces.
In the past three Parliamentary sessions, I have supported measures aimed to tackle prejudice, intolerance and discrimination in all forms.
Over the last 15 years campaigners have worked with politicians to deliver greater equality. I paid tribute to Janey Buchan former MEP who died earlier this year. She was a strong campaigner for justice and equality throughout her life. That long-term commitment paid off when the last Labour government and then the Scottish Parliament introduced a raft of equality measures such as repealing S28, introducing civil partnerships, adoption and fostering rights, equalising the age of consent and passing hate crime laws.
A clear message needs to be sent that there is no place for discrimination in a modern Scotland and events like Pride Scotia are important for ensuring that these debates are put at the top of the agenda.
Later today the Scottish Cabinet is expected to announce how it will take forward the issue of equal marriage following consultation. I hope they get both the principles and the details right.