Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for being a wonderful home to me over the last 6 years. As an English girl in Scotland, it hasn’t always been easy – I’ve had to get used to a completely different football league, some rather strange meal options and money which looks somewhat less than authentic! Please don’t take that the wrong way, I’ve come to love Scotland – I studied at St Andrews for four years, and that little town still has my heart – whilst Edinburgh is now home. The freeze on council tax, no prescription fees and great local transport are all pluses too.
And the news that the Scottish Government has decided to legislate for equal marriage is a step that I cannot help but applaud. Whilst I’ve always been a supporter of equal rights, it was only when I met my girlfriend, Stacey – that the ban on marriage between same-sex couples really meant anything to me. I’ve written before about my struggle to ‘know’ about my own sexuality – let’s just say that I never expected to be in a relationship with another girl, I never thought ‘equal marriage rights’ would be something that I would ever actually NEED. But I do.
I’d like to explain why the Scottish Government’s decision to open the door to equal marriage, regardless of sexuality, is so important to me, as a queer person. I hope that for some people who are against equal marriage, or who are on the fence, who don’t have an opinion, this may explain why I feel so strongly.
As I said before, I never expected that one day I’d be thinking of planning a wedding to another girl – but I did always dream of meeting someone I loved so much that I wanted to plan a wedding. Love was always something important to me, something I was looking forward to. When I met Stacey, the thought of not being able to get married to her suddenly hurt.
I know some people will ask ‘Why?’ Why do I want marriage so badly, when we could have a civil partnership? Why do I want something which is tied to religion, when religion is so utterly against my relationship? Why can’t I just be satisfied with equal rights?
I’ve come to accept that I won’t get married in a Church of England Church, despite considering myself a Christian. I don’t want to argue with officials within an organisation which often seems to be more interested in the Bible than the teachings of Jesus; it’s the same reason that I don’t regularly attend Sunday services. (When I find a church I feel loves me regardless of, not in spite of, my sexuality, I will return to organised religion.) I don’t want a religious marriage – I’m content to be blessed by the vicar which married my mother and stepfather after their marriage – something he is happy to do.
However, not wanting a religious marriage is not the same as not wanting a marriage. Did you know, in a civil partnership ceremony, neither those getting partnered, nor the official can used the terms ‘bride’ ‘groom’ ‘husband’ or ‘wife’? When I’m having a ceremony to celebrate my love, I will be a bride – and yet no-one will be able to (officially) use that word. There is a difference between becoming someone’s partner, and becoming someone’s wife. These terms cannot be said to be religious – otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to be used in civil marriages – and yet they are.
All I want is to be allowed the same opportunities as those of my straight friends. Some of those wouldn’t be able to get married in a CofE church – but they have the option of a civil marriage, rather than a civil partnership. What I don’t want, what I strongly oppose, is being told that I can’t have something which is on offer to the vast majority of the population, due to something which is outside of my control. Not all marriage is religious, and maybe not all gay people will want to get married – but the Scottish Government have recognised that a large number of us would like the choice.
That’s what I’m most thankful for: a government seeing that equality is not about who can shout louder, who can be more outraged. Equality is offering the same thing, the same semantics to everyone, even when some people don’t want it. The fact of the matter is that within years, gay people within Scotland will have the option of getting married – and they can choose whether they want to or not.
For that, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you, Scottish Government, and thank you, Scotland.