For the first time a majority of MSPs have publicly pledged to vote for a change in the law to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in Scotland.
In a move that will increase pressure on the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation later this month, 69 MSPs from across the political parties have announced that they will be voting for same-sex marriage.
The MSPs that have signed the Equality Network’s ‘Equal Marriage Pledge’ include the leaders of all the opposition parties, the majority of SNP and Labour MSPs, and all Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs.
Key Scottish Government cabinet ministers have also indicated they will personally be voting for the measure, including Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Kenny MacAskill.
The Scottish Government are due to publish the long-awaited results of their same-sex marriage consultation this month.
In stark contrast to the high level of parliamentary support for equal marriage, just nine MSPs have said that they will vote against proposals. These include seven Conservative MSPs, Dave Thompson of the SNP, and Bill Walker who has recently been expelled from the SNP and arrested following allegations of domestic abuse.
The Equality Network expect the Scottish Government to announce legislation soon, but will work to secure a Private Members Bill if such legislation is not forthcoming.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “With a clear majority of MSPs committed to voting for equal marriage the Scottish Government should now lead the way by introducing full marriage equality; both civil and religious. Our politicians say they want Scotland to be a progressive beacon for the rest of the world, now they have the chance to make that ambition a reality.”
Patrick Harvie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Green Party, called on the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation; “I’m delighted to see that a majority of MSPs agree with the majority of the public, that same-sex and mixed-sex couples are entitled to equal respect under the law, and that the ban on same-sex marriage makes no sense. It’s clearly time for the Government to move on and introduce a bill to Parliament. I’m sure that once it’s passed those opposed will be shocked to discover that civilisation does not collapse after all!”
Willie Rennie MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats are determined that equal marriage forms part of the modern, tolerant and progressive Scotland we all want to see. I have kept up the pressure in Parliament for this ground-breaking legislation to be brought forward. Now that more than half of MSPs have signed up to the Equality Network pledge, the Scottish Government should lay out their timetable so that we can use the cross party consensus to get equal marriage on the statute books. I will continue to do all I can to support efforts to bring fairness and equality to marriage in Scotland.”
Jackson Carlaw MSP, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, also welcomed the news; “As the results of the public consultation near publication, it is encouraging that over half of the Scottish Parliament’s MSPs, from all parties, support a change. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to come forward with specific proposals.”
The Scottish consultation on same-sex marriage closed in December with over 50,000 responses. The Scottish Government has yet to announce a decision on whether it will seek to legalise same-sex marriage, but a decision is expected some time in June.
The Equality Network point out that eight other European countries around Scotland have already introduced same-sex marriage, including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, and Portugal. Whilst France and Ireland are currently considering legislation. The Equality Network say “if Scotland does not introduce legislation then same-sex couples here will have less rights than those enjoyed by almost all of our closest European neighbours.”
Opinion polls suggest a majority of Scots support equal marriage, including the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which indicated 61% support versus 19% opposition. This included a majority of respondents following all the major faiths and political parties in Scotland.
UPDATE: For a full list of those MSPs that support equal marriage please visit: www.equalmarriage.org.uk/support