The Equality Network’s Tom French reflects on the first day of evidence heard by the Scottish Parliament around equal marriage legislation yesterday, saying it was a promising start to the bill’s journey.
Yesterday the Scottish Parliament held its first evidence session on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill; the legislation that could introduce equal marriage in Scotland.
The inquiry into the Bill is being undertaken by the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee who will hear evidence from a wide range of stakeholders in the coming weeks, before making recommendations to the Scottish Parliament on whether to proceed with the Bill and, if so, in what form.
The purpose of the Committee’s inquiry is to consider both the principles of the Bill, and how the detail can be improved. In our view, the Committee got off to a very promising start.
The Equality Network has previously expressed the frustration of LGBT people that equal marriage legislation is taking longer to introduce in Scotland than in England and Wales, despite Scotland having been the first part of the UK to bring proposals to the table.
It is always frustrating to wait for equality, particularly when we have been calling for marriage and civil partnership equality in Scotland for over a decade.
Nonetheless, whilst we want the first marriages to be celebrated in Scotland sooner rather than later, we also believe it is important to get the law right.
We would much rather have a well-considered bill that meets the needs of all LGBT people than one that is rushed and leaves trans and intersex people behind.
That is why we were pleased that, right from the word go, the Committee has placed a significant focus on the five amendments we are proposing to secure equal marriage for trans and intersex people.
Our amendments would effectively remove the spousal veto; reduce the minimum age for Gender Recognition to 16; introduce simpler evidence requirements for long-term transitioned people; allow gender-neutral marriage ceremonies, and allow people with civil partnership from outwith Scotland to get married here. These amendments are fully explained in our written evidence.
In yesterday’s Committee session MSPs seemed genuinely concerned to make sure the Bill doesn’t overlook the needs of trans and intersex people, and gave us the chance to carefully explain why these small but important amendments are needed.
The Equality Network strongly believes that if these amendments are made to the Bill then the extra wait for equal marriage in Scotland will have been well-and-truly worth it, and the Scottish Government and Parliament could be proud of passing progressive and well-considered legislation.
Of course, having made the case for these amendments, it is now up to the members of the Committee, the Scottish Government and ultimately the Scottish Parliament to make sure that they are implemented.
For our part, the Equality Network and our partners are determined that trans equality should be seen as an integral part of Scotland’s equal marriage legislation, not an after-thought.
In Scotland, we have always been trans inclusive and we will not let trans people down on this Bill, because trans people have a right to equal marriage just like everyone else.
Tom French is the Equality Network’s policy coordinator and tweets at @TomfromBrighton.