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It’s Time: Equality Network launches Scotland’s Equal Marriage video campaign

Posted on by Tom

Today, the Equality Network are proud to launch ‘It’s Time’, Scotland’s equal marriage video campaign: http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/itstime

The video campaign features leading Scottish celebrities, politicians, religious ministers, and ordinary couples from across the country, voicing their support for Equal Marriage and declaring that, in 2013, ‘It’s Time’ LGBT people in Scotland had equal rights.

The campaign is being launched to mark five years since the Equality Network started Equal Marriage, the UK’s first campaign for same-sex marriage, in June 2008. It also comes at the beginning of an important week in which the Scottish Government is set to introduce the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill in Parliament.

The video campaign aims to help build momentum for a change in the law as MSPs decide how they will vote on Scotland’s equal marriage legislation. We also hope that it will help focus the minds of MSPs on the positive issues at the heart of the bill; love, equality and freedom of choice.

Equal Marriage supporters featured in the video campaign include the First Minister and the leaders of all five main opposition parties in Scotland, as well as religious ministers from the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Quakers, Unitarians, the Metropolitan Community Church, and Liberal Judaism.

They are joined by leading Scottish celebrities including Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Sharleen Spiteri, Lorraine Kelly, Billy Boyd, Sylvester McCoy, John Michie, Michelle McManus, Susan Calman, Muriel Gray, Melanie Masson, Horse McDonald, Libby McArthur, Iain Stirling, Elaine C Smith, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Carol Smillie, Grant Stott, Pat Kane, Val McDermid, and the Proclaimers. With “Pride” by the award-winning Amy MacDonald featuring as the backing track courtesy of Amy and her management, Universal Music and Warner/Chappell.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “We’re proud of the ‘It’s Time’ video campaign, which demonstrates the breadth of support that exists for equal marriage in Scotland, and reflects the values of equality and compassion that have always been at the heart of our society. Thirty-three years ago Scotland finally decriminalised homosexuality now, in 2013, its well-and-truly time that LGBT people were granted full equality under the law. We hope that in the coming months MSPs will vote by a clear majority to give same-sex couples an equal right to celebrate their love and, in doing so, they will send out a strong message to the world about the kind of fair and progressive country we want Scotland to be.”

‘It’s Time’ was filmed on location across Scotland by, the up-and-coming Glasgow-based video production company, Production Attic.

Stephen Paton, Director of Production Attic, has spoken out about why they wanted to produce the video campaign; “Production Attic are proud to have contributed to a campaign that strives for social justice and equality in Scotland. It has been inspiring to have met so many people who were willing to devote their time and passion to this issue, and to creating a fairer and more progressive country for future generations.”

All of the Equality Network’s campaigns, including Equal Marriage, are funded entirely by donation. The ‘It’s Time’ video campaign was funded by individual donors and sponsorship from Community, the trade union, whose slogan is rather fittingly ‘the union for life’. We are incredibly grateful to Community for proving their strong commitment to LGBT equality by choosing to sponsor this video campaign.

John Park, the former MSP who is now Director of Strategy and Policy for Community, has spoken about why the trade union wanted to sponsor the video campaign; “Community is a growing and modern workplace and community-based union. Our mission is to empower working people to create better communities. The Equality Network’s Equal Marriage campaign is about creating better communities too – places where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, are able to share the same opportunities. We want to make a difference – this campaign will – and that’s why I’m really pleased we have this opportunity to support the production of these short films over the coming months.”

The Equality Network warmly welcomes the leadership shown by politicians and public figures in getting on board with the video campaign. This is perhaps the first time in Scottish history that all of our political leaders and such influential public figures have spoken out so clearly and vocally in favour of LGBT equality, and it is important to recognise the significance of such leadership, and the vital role it plays in reducing prejudice and changing social attitudes for the better.

The celebrities and public figures featured in the campaign were keen to speak out about why they wanted to get involved:

Sharleen Spiteri, the lead singer of Texas, said; “I support the Equality Network’s Equal Marriage campaign because I believe that you should be able to love whoever you want to love, and you should be allowed to be with that person if you want to be regardless of sexuality.”

Alan Cumming, the award-winning Hollywood actor, said; “I wanted to take part in the Equality Network video campaign because as a Scot, I feel our country should be aware of the inequality that exists, as we are not a nation to discriminate.”

Lorraine Kelly, the Queen of Daytime TV, said; “I wanted to support the Equality Network’s Equal Marriage campaign because I think two people who love each other and who want to make a commitment to one another in front of friends and family is something very special and should be applauded. Why should the fact they happen to be gay make a blind bit of difference? We need more love and more equality in the world. Equal marriage would be a step in the right direction and I’m baffled that anyone would want to oppose it and stand in the way of any couple’s happiness.”

Billy Boyd, the actor and musician famed for his role in the Lord of the Rings, said; “I was very pleased to be asked to be part of this campaign by the Equality Network. Marriage in our society is a way we can show our fellow human beings our love, to say someone’s love for another is more “legal” than someone else’s is crazy. I look forward to Scotland, and ultimately the rest of the world, giving legal equality to anyone who wishes to marry.”

Susan Calman, the acclaimed comedian, said; “I wanted to be part of the Equal Marriage campaign because, to me, it’s a crucial step for LGBT equality in Scotland. Having had a civil partnership last year I hope very much that I can, one day soon, have the right to marry. It’s a great campaign and I’m proud to be part of the video that the Equality Network has produced.”

Michelle McManus, the much-loved TV presenter and former Pop Idol winner, said; “I am supporting the Equality Network’s Equal Marriage campaign because I think it’s an absolute disgrace that in 2013 we are living in a country where adults still do not share the same rights. Regardless of gender if you are lucky enough to find someone to fall in love with and spend the rest of your life with you should absolutely be entitled to marry that person for better or for worse in the eyes of the law.”

Melanie Masson, the Glasgow-born X Factor finalist, said; “I believe everyone has the right to love and be loved regardless of gender, race or religion. To deny anyone the right to legally express that, is a denial of civil liberties. Being involved in the Equality Network’s video campaign was important to me as I am very much in favour of equal marriage and want to give my support in any way I can, as should every human being.”

Grant Stott, the Forth One radio presenter, said; “I’m delighted to back the Equality Network’s campaign as I still can’t fully understand why two people who love each other just the same as a man and a woman do, can’t take the same vows and get married.”

Carol Smillie, the well-known TV presenter and model, said; “I’m still taken aback by how equal marriage divides opinion, what happened to ‘Live and Let Live’? I’m immensely proud to be part of an interesting, diverse society of individual characters, and same-sex marriages are a part of that. Love has no barriers, let it blossom”

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said; “As a Christian priest, it is my duty to stand up for equality. Although I can currently bless gay couples in church, I look forward one day to being able to be able to legally marry them too. Equal marriage is a small change in the law that will make a big difference. The time has come for the Scottish Parliament to ensure that Scotland is seen around the world as a place where everyone is treated equally.”

Rev Lindsay Biddle, of the Church of Scotland, said; “I support equal marriage because the human right to marry, whatever your gender or sexual orientation, is simply just. I wanted to be involved in the Equality Network’s video campaign so that people can see and hear one more Christian minister affirm marriage between a woman and a woman, or a man and a man.” 

The main ‘It’s Time’ video focuses on a day in the life of real couples from across Scotland, some same-sex and some mixed-sex. The couples have spoken out about why they wanted to be involved in the campaign:

Jerry (56) and Larry Slater (80), an older same-sex couple from Kirkcudbright, said; “Having spent much of our lives with laws that discriminated against us, we joined the Equality Network’s video campaign to help bring down this barrier to equality. Now is the time to end marriage discrimination. By giving its own people the right to equal marriage Scotland will show a lead to other countries who actively discriminate and deny human rights to their LGBT citizens.”

Leo Espouy (21) and Sarah Newton (24), a young same-sex couple from Edinburgh, said; “We wanted to get involved in the Equality Network’s video campaign because we’re both very proud to be part of such an important event, especially at this crucial stage. We feel that the equal marriage bill being passed is a real turning point for Scotland and for obvious reasons it has become a very personal cause for us both. At the end of the day it is about equal rights for everyone, getting rid of discrimination everywhere and this is why we support it so strongly.”

Nathan (28) and Robert Gale (33), a young same-sex couple from Leith who are in a civil partnership, said; “We were delighted to be able to take part in the Equality Network video campaign, helping to show that people from all walks of life support equal marriage. For us equal partnership rights are quite simply about equality. Our relationship is equal, our love is equal and the way our relationship is recognised should be equal as well.”

Joe (79) and Anne Patrizio MBE (73), an older mixed-sex married couple from Edinburgh, said; “We have always worked towards an equal society, people are just people. Celebration of love and commitment is a very important part of that equality.”

Caroline Lamb (23) and Scott McBurney (23), a young mixed-sex couple from Dundee, said; “We have always felt it our civic duty to stand up for equality in Scotland, and elsewhere, which is why when Equality Network asked us to help them promote equal marriage we jumped at the chance. We are both proud to be part of the team who championed same-sex marriage, and will one day reflect on the equal marriage campaign as a proud piece of our history. We support equal marriage as a matter of principle and logic, equalities in our community, whether it be ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, class or otherwise are something we believe, a stable, safe and fair society demands”

Jaye (48) and Ruth Richards-Hill (44), a same-sex Christian couple from Glasgow who were married in South Africa, said; “Ruth and I were keen to be involved in the Equality Network’s video because we feel it’s important to show people why marriage equality means so much to us as a couple. As our friends marry, many of them in a Church, we stand on the sidelines like second class citizens who are forbidden from joining the party. This is a human rights issue; an issue of fundamental equality. In a fair and equal society, everybody should enjoy the same rights and responsibilities.”

Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland. The most recent poll was conducted in June 2012 by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network. It showed record support with 64% of Scots in favour of a change in the law, and just 26% opposed. Separate polls conducted over the past three years by Populus, YouGov, Angus Reid, and the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, have all shown similar levels of support.

Support for equal marriage is also high in the Scottish Parliament. Over two-thirds of MSPs have now signed the Equality Network’s ‘Equal Marriage Pledge’ committing themselves to voting in favour of same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership. Signatories include First Minister Alex Salmond, all Cabinet Ministers, and the leaders of all four Parliamentary opposition parties. Whilst 88 MSPs have now said they will vote in favour, just 11 remain publicly opposed.

Most countries around Scotland already have same-sex marriage, including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal. The UK Government are currently in the process of introducing same-sex marriage in England and Wales, whilst Ireland is considering a change in the law to allow it.

Across the Atlantic, same-sex marriage is already legal in Canada and many US States. Within days the Supreme Court is due to make a landmark ruling on whether or not same-sex marriage should be recognised in California and by the Federal government of the United States.

Minnesota gets Equal Marriage

Posted on by Tom

Minnesota has become the third US state to pass equal marriage legislation in the past three weeks.

The state Senate passed the bill on May 13th, by 37 votes to 30. It was passed by the House of Representatives the previous week by 75 votes to 59. The state Governor supports the bill and will sign it into law on May 14th. Same-sex marriage will be available in Minnesota from 1st August.

Minnesota is the third US state to introduce equal marriage in the past three weeks (following Rhode Island and Delaware). This brings the number of US states that will, by August, be celebrating same-sex marriages to 12. There is also legislation under consideration in the Illinois legislature, and the US Supreme Court is due to rule in June on whether to reinstate same-sex marriage in California.

April was also a good month for equal marriage, with bills passed in Uruguay, New Zealand and France.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales will return to the House of Commons for two days of debate on Monday and Tuesday May 20th and 21st, and will then go to the Lords.

We are anticipating that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament in the early summer.

Delaware gets equal marriage

Posted on by Tom

The Equality Network is very happy (yet again!) to report the passing of the fifth equal marriage bill in as many weeks.

The legislature of the US state of Delaware last night passed a bill to allow same-sex marriage. The bill was passed by the state Senate by 12 votes to 9, having been passed previously by the General Assembly by 23 votes to 18. The state Governor signed the bill into law last night, and same-sex marriages will be available in Delaware from 1st July.

Delaware is the second US state within a week to open up marriage to same-sex couples. This brings to five the number of countries/states around the world that have legalised same-sex marriage within the past month: Uruguay (on 10th April), New Zealand (17th April), France (23rd April), Rhode Island (2nd May) and Delaware (7th May).

With the exception of New Jersey, the north east coastal states in the US, from Maine down to Maryland, now have equal marriage (plus Vermont, Iowa and Washington, and the District of Columbia and three tribal jurisdictions). New Jersey passed an equal marriage bill last year, but it was vetoed by the state Governor. Legislators who support equal marriage are attempting to override the veto in the New Jersey legislature.

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court is expected to issue judgement in June on whether the ban on same-sex marriage in California (known as Proposition 8) violates the US Constitution. If the Court rules that, equal marriage will be restored in California (the ruling may not affect other states).

There are also equal marriage bills currently progressing for England & Wales, Luxembourg, Minnesota and Illinois.

The Equality Network anticipates that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament in the early summer.

Equal Marriage in running for Scottish Charity Awards

Posted on by Tom

The Equal Marriage campaign has been shortlisted for the ‘Campaign of the Year’ and ‘People’s Choice’ awards at this year’s Scottish Charity Awards.

The prestigious annual awards, run by SCVO (the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations), seek to recognise and celebrate the efforts of charities, community groups and individuals dedicated to making Scotland a better place to live.

Equal Marriage, the UK’s first major campaign for same-sex marriage, was launched by the Equality Network in 2008. Since then the campaign has put the issue on the political agenda, engaged thousands of supporters, and successfully encouraged the Scottish Government to commit to legislation.

The People’s Choice Award is decided by a public vote and equal marriage supporters can vote for the campaign by visiting: www.equalmarriage.org.uk/vote

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, welcomed the nomination as a tribute to the efforts of many; “The fact that the Equal Marriage campaign has been shortlisted for the Scottish Charity Awards is a fitting tribute to the efforts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and their supporters, who have fought for equal rights over many decades and in the face of much adversity.

As Scotland moves towards full equality for LGBT people, we are honoured that the judges have chosen to recognise this important and historic movement. It is a mark of just how far we’ve come as a society that the fight for LGBT equality is now being recognised and celebrated, when homosexuality was still criminalised just a few decades ago.

SCVO’s awards play a valuable role in highlighting the efforts of third sector organisations and that’s why we are delighted to be part of this year’s celebrations.”

Martin Sime, Chief Executive of SCVO, said; “Everyday people working and volunteering in charities right across Scotland make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people in our communities. These awards celebrate the positive impact this makes and the tremendous effort made by charities and volunteers.”

Over the past five years the Equal Marriage campaign has involved many thousands of people and diverse communities from across Scotland, including equality and human rights bodies, faith groups, trade unions, and youth and student organisations.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill is set to be tabled in the Scottish Parliament this summer, giving MSPs the opportunity to vote for equal marriage and take Scotland a major step towards full equality for LGBT people.

The Equality Network say it is vital that supporters continue to write to their MSPs and support the campaign, pointing out that opponents of same-sex marriage are continuing to spend tens of thousands on efforts to block or amend the legislation.

Scotland decriminalised homosexuality in 1980, thirteen years after England and Wales. Since then the country has gradually introduced greater equality, and the Equality Network say that, if passed, equal marriage will be an historic step towards full legal equality for LGBT people.

Rhode Island passes equal marriage

Posted on by Tom

We’re very happy (again!) to report that the legislature of the US state of Rhode Island has this evening passed a bill to open up marriage to couples regardless of gender.

The bill was passed by the state House of Representatives by 56 votes to 15, having been passed last week by the Senate by 26 votes to 12. The state Governor is signing the bill into law within the hour.

Same-sex marriages will be available in Rhode Island from 1st August.

Rhode Island is the 10th US state to introduce equal marriage, and the last of the six New England states to do so. The District of Columbia and three tribal jurisdictions also provide equal marriage in the US.

In the past four weeks, four parliaments, on four different continents, have passed bills introducing equal marriage, in Uruguay, New Zealand, France and Rhode Island.

There are also equal marriage bills currently progressing in a number of other parliaments, including Luxembourg, and, in the US, Delaware, Illinois and Minnesota.

And of course the UK Parliament is considering the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England & Wales. That bill is expected to have two more days of debate in the House of Commons towards the end of this month, and will then move to the House of Lords.

We are currently hoping to see the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament in the early summer.