GLASGOW, Scotland — On Jan. 13, Scottish gays and lesbians launched a petition calling on the Parliament to amend the Scottish Marriage Act of 1977 to allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Spearheading the campaign is the Glasgow-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network (LGBTN).
The petition also calls on the law in Scotland to be changed to allow a same-sex marriage to be performed by a faith group — but only if the religious institution consents.
Currently, the Civil Partnership Act (2005), which applies to the whole of the United Kingdom, forbids any mention of religion when gay unions are officiated, forcing all civil partnerships to be strictly secular.
Additionally, legal marriages performed abroad between two people of the same sex in countries such as Canada, South Africa and Spain — as well as in U.S. states Connecticut and Massachusetts — are automatically recognized with a civil partnership when the couple comes to Britain.
“Equality means all citizens should be treated the same, and that everyone must have the same rights under law,” LGBT Network Director Nick Henderson said when launching the petition.
“Yet the status quo ensures a system of one law for straight couples and another for gay couples. Whatever the similarities between civil partnerships and marriage; separate but equal is inherently unequal.
“Equality means all citizens should be treated the same, and that everyone must have the same rights under law.
“Marriage is the strongest word we have for a declaration of total love and commitment to one another; and to deny any person that opportunity is to deny the full measure of dignity and humanity that we are all endowed with.”
The High Court and the U.K. government have both denied gay couples full equality under the law.
Senior High Court Judge Sir Mark Potter refused to recognize a Canadian couple’s legally performed marriage in 2006, and Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice has set out the government’s continued opposition to marriage equality.
“When we passed the [Civil Partnership] Bill…we made a distinction in it and did not call single-sex partnerships marriage,” Lord Beck said in the House of Lords last October.
“In many important ways, it was very similar, particularly in the many legal rights that it quite rightly gave to single-sex partnerships, but it did not call those partnerships marriage, and that remains the government’s policy,” he added.
Henderson said that LGBTN wanted to see gay couples being allowed to have a religious, as well as a civil marriage, if the faith group allows it.
“There is a huge diversity of opinion among faith groups on same-sex marriage; churches, temples and synagogues should be able to decide if they want to marry couples or not,” he said.
“Government is wrong to assume that being religious and being LGBT are incompatible with each other — nor should the state say that one religious group is right and the other is wrong.”
The LGBT Network wants everyone, gay or straight, Scottish or not, to add their name to the petition if they truly believe that no one should be a second-class citizen because of their sexuality; and that everyone is entitled to equal treatment and respect under the law.
Henderson also called on all who believe in equal marriage rights to participate in the fight to achieve it: And the petition is open for anyone in the world to sign.
“It is incumbent on all of us who wish to live in a more equal world that we do not let someone else fight for a right we wish to enjoy,” he pointed out.
“This cannot just be the LGBT Networks campaign for marriage equality, the change must come from all of us.”
You can learn more about the LGBT Network at www.lgbtnetwork.eu.
— Andy Harley is the editor of UK Gay News. Read more at www.ukgaynews.org.uk.