Over the weekend, I was out in Edinburgh to support the annual Pride Scotia rally celebrating diversity and personal identity among Scotland’s LGBT community.
As part of the event, I got the opportunity to address the crowd and among the key issues people were talking about on the day was same sex marriage.
In recent years, research and opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Scots support the idea that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry. At the same time, a survey by the Equality Network has shown that the majority of MSPs support equal marriage.
My own position on the matter is very clear. After supporting moves to introduce civil partnerships I believe it is important that we build on this agenda to deliver equal marriage.
The Scottish Government first consulted on the concept of same sex marriage in 2011 and used the responses received to inform the drafting of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. The draft bill was consulted on at the start of 2013 and a final bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament later in the year.
I am working with colleagues to call on the Scottish Government to provide a clear timetable on same sex marriage to provide clarity to Scotland’s LGBT community. While progress to date has been welcome, it has come at a slow pace. For example, in the time that Scotland has been discussing this issue there has been progress across the globe.
Since last year’s Pride Scotia celebration, US states Rhode Island, Delaware and Minnesota along with Uruguay and New Zealand have passed equal marriage legislation.
When the Bill is finally introduced I will be working with colleagues to ensure that it delivers real equality. I am eager to ensure that the Bill will give religious and faith groups who wish to conduct same sex ceremonies the power to do so while providing robust protections to enable those who do not the power to opt out.
I am hopeful that by the time next year’s Pride Scotia rally comes around, we will be well on the way to delivering equal marriage in Scotland.