With equal marriage laws absent from the Westminster government’s legislative agenda for the coming year, Scottish campaigners say Holyrood is in a position to become a ‘beacon’ of equality by introducing the laws first.
A public consultation took place in Scotland towards the end of 2011, with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) government having said it was minded towards introducing equality. The results of the consultation have been pushed back until June.
In February, the leaders of all of Scotland’s opposition parties: Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Greens signed a pledge to vote for gay couples being allowed to marry when the issue comes before the Scottish Parliament.
Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservative Party is openly lesbian while Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Scottish Green Party is openly bisexual.
In line with the government’s previous statements but disappointing to marriage advocates hoping for legislation to come sooner, the Queen’s Speech at Westminster today did not include marriage equality on the agenda for England and Wales this year.
The government has pledged to introduce the legislation before 2015 and a public consultation is ongoing.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said the confirmation of the legislative agenda put Scotland in an ideal position to move ahead of the rest of the UK on equality between gay and straight couples in marriage.
He said: “The Scottish Government now has the perfect opportunity to prove that Scotland is capable of being the progressive beacon that our political leaders want it to be by leading the way on equal marriage rights.
“We know that a majority of the public back full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Scotland has the powers it needs to make this happen. It’s now time for the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation and make equal marriage a reality.”
The Equality Network added that delaying legislation until after Scotland holds a referendum on independence from the rest of the UK, as had been suggested in some quarters, would be a “mistake”.
It said: “Delaying a decision on same-sex marriage would put the issue centre-stage during the referendum campaign, and would undermine any good will that the Scottish Government secured when they brought forward equal marriage proposals.”