by Mairi Campbell-Jack

Last week there was a lot of bluster in the Scottish papers. Exactly the sort of bluster you hear when a group, which used to be in a majority, has withered into a minority, and feels threatened – you hear it a lot in post-colonial Britain you can find it most on the pages of the Daily Mail. A curious mixture of assumed rightness, with a background of insecure defensiveness.

That’s right the anti-gay marriage band had organised in Scotland. Although they organised their launch and protest on the same day as the pension strike, which was poor planning, they have received substantial coverage in the Scottish press. I am not against freedom of speech, especially when a consultation is being undertaken. I am also not against the freedom to criticise someone’s opinion, and the two are not the same thing.

What really amazed me from the reporting was the language that Scotland for Marriage was using. I was a bit alarmed about the not defined but much spoken of “drastic consequences for our society”. To not take notice of “drastic consequences” would be a bit like hearing all about climate change and going out and buying a 4×4. So I thought I should check out Scotland for Marriage’s website, and read what would no doubt be their thoroughly researched arguments, with plenty of evidence to back them up.

What I found was this…

One man + one woman

Marriage is the union of one man to one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others. Although death and divorce may prevent it, it is the ideal environment for raising children. It is possible to respect the rights of others while also supporting traditional marriage.

Let’s take this one first. They start with a definition of a marriage – as it currently is in this country – so, we can’t really disagree with that definition because it is currently the truth, here. However because it is currently the legal definition does not mean that it cannot be changed. It is easy to point to several countries where it has already happened. Therefore proving that across the world there are multiple definitions of marriage.

At the end they cheekily slip in the children. I have massive problems with the statement that a marriage is the “ideal environment” for raising children. There are many marriages which are far from ideal for the adults within them, let alone the children. Those are the marriages where physical, sexual or psychological abuse takes place, the marriages where one or both partners has addiction issues, the marriages where there is no love, the marriages where there is long-term, serial adultery… I can carry on. You won’t have to look far to find people who were damaged by their married parent(s) behaviour. Some parents behave in a way that is directly damaging to themselves and their families, and being married does not stop that. In fact being married and societal pressure can encourage people to stay in situations where walking away is healthier for all involved.

Marriage is not ideal for children, what is ideal for children is love, security and boundaries. Pieces of paper and ceremonies to not guarantee those.

I agree with Scotland for Marriage’s end statement. I totally support people if they decided that they want to go down the route of a traditional marriage – it’s their choice, and I also totally support the rights of other people, including homosexuals. It is possible to do both – how nice. I guess the difference is that in my definition of supporting rights I mean supporting ALL their rights, and not just the ones that suit me.

Polygamy may be next.

If marriage is redefined for same-sex marriage, it could be redefined for polygamy next. Canada introduced same-sex marriage and then that was used in a court case to argue that polygamy should be made legal. Once you start unpicking the definition of marriage, it can unravel further.

This is definitely my favourite of all the well thought out and thoroughly argued points made by Scotland for Marriage. “Polygmy may be next.” Yes, and then polyandry and then fire will rain down from the sky, just like Sodom and Gamorrah,and we will be swallowed by the sea – just like what happened in Canada. Canada no longer exists, apart from the Mormon communes that mainly live on small rafts tied to the tops of pine trees that manage to stick up above the ocean.

There are a lot of things that “may” happen, just, well, in life you know. But that doesn’t mean you should always stop doing something. If you look into arguments from the US about slavery there were lots of arguments at the time saying slaves should not be released because ex-slaves would run amok looting and rioting – I think that one worked out quite well in the end though.

Canada is one of many countries to introduce same-sex marriage. It also in some areas has Mormon communities, who believe that polygamy is a divine right. The argued in court that to deny them polygamous marriage was to deny their freedoms and human rights, and used same-sex marriage in their arguments. However it was ruled that polygamy is dangerous for the children brought up within those marriages, and these arrangements were significantly damaging to the wives, as well as wider society – there was actually research to back that up.

The judge “…rejected the “alarmist view … that recognition of the legitimacy of same-sex marriage will lead to the legitimization of polygamy,” noting that polygamy is a practice “inevitably associated with serious harms.” While recognition of same-sex marriage promotes equality, polygyny promotes inequality.”

Free to disagree

People shouldn’t feel compelled to agree with redefining marriage just because of political correctness. And people shouldn’t be penalised just because they support traditional marriage. People’s careers shouldn’t be damaged, foster parents shouldn’t be turned away, and religious adoption agencies shouldn’t be closed down just for upholding traditional marriage.

I believe that in this section Scotland for Marriage, are making veiled references to several cases inrecent years where certain aspects of people’s beliefs, that have been influenced by their faith have ended up becoming an issue in their working lives and hopes for adoption. However without giving any real details, argument or research, they are conjuring up a vague fear which does not have a solid relation to gay marriage.

Take for example people’s careers being damaged. There have been several cases of B&B owner turning away gay people because they disagree with their sexual orientation. Some of these owners have been sued. This has got absolutely nothing to dowith gay marriage. The equal provision of goods and services to gay people, as well as their rights to adopt and foster, are already enshrined in law.

What Scotland for Marriage is arguing for here is a repeal of existing legislation. Legislation which has nothing to do with marriage. They are essentially evoking an atmosphere of threat and fear. Interestingly they are trying to cast themselves as the ones who are being discriminated against, over issues which are completely different from the issue of gay marriage. Although still to do with discrimination and equality.

By not really making clear the difference in these two separate issues, they manage to link one with the other, and make it appear that people are being silenced and persecuted over their opinions on gay marriage. They are not, in the issues relating to adoption, fostering and the B&B’s people were being asked to comply with a law. On the issue of gay marriage people have been asked to take part in a fourteen week consultation (quite a long consultation period) and if a bill comes through there will still be adequate time for individuals and groups of all differing opinions to contact their MSPs and make their views known.

As far as I can see on gay marriage no one is being “compelled” to say anything, they are being asked an opinion, and when a law is or is not passed they will be asked to respect the law of the land they live in.

Hold a referendum

This issue should be decided by the people, not by politicians. If there is to be a change it should be subject to a referendum. The Scottish Government did not invent marriage, and it does not have the moral authority to redefine it. At the very least, on an issue of this importance, MSPs should be guided by their constituents more on this issue than would normally be the case.

Yes please – I like voting. It’s fun. I also have pretty good idea who would win this referendum, if it was ever held.

Although I’m kind of puzzled by the Scottish Government not having moral authority to redefine marriage. Firstly it is the elected government of the people of Scotland – they have a mandate to govern. I would argue that this issue is not a moral one, it’s an equalities issues. Plus, marriage is not a moral state – it’s a legal state.That’s what lawyers to get out of it cost so much. Who makes our laws? Well, several different institutions, but in this case it is up to the Scottish Government. That’s pretty clear. I’ve seen several differing groups in the parliament trying to persuade committee’s that they don’t have the authority to make law on whatever proposed bill they are objecting too – it never goes down well.

There are four days left to fill out the consultation.