The Scottish Cabinet met today to discuss the long awaited Equal Marriage proposals and then promptly cancelled the 4pm press conference that had been scheduled to discuss the results of that discussion. Instead we got this press release, which seems to say a few things:
- There won’t be a referendum on it.
- There will still be a decision on the legislation announced by the end of the month.
- There’s a subcommittee chaired by Nicola Sturgeon discussing “particular details”.
- There will be a free vote on the resulting Bill.
The referendum was fairly obviously never going to happen and rightly so – in a democracy basic rights must be guaranteed by the government and not subjected to the will of the majority or they aren’t basic rights.
The delay in the actual announcement is a bit depressing given that this decision has been delayed repeatedly already and, for many people, it’s a bit of a slam-dunk in principle.
The subcommittee is interesting because while the principle that consenting adults should be able to be married by who they want to whom they want, It’s A Bit More Complicated than that given the rich variety of human sexuality, gender identity and relationship forms. It’s probably a bit too much to hope we’ll allow mixed gender civil partnerships and non-monogamous relationships, but there’s non-trivial issues around changes in gender identity or status (such as those outlined by Peatworrier here) which should be considered closely and compassionately. Perhaps something best done by Parliament in detail but let’s hope the sub-committee is considering how to frame the principles in such a way as to get the desired outcome.
The final part of this is the free vote. Now, I might have missed something but I’d expected this to be whipped. Fortunately there’s a majority in Parliament for it so it should get through anyway. It does rather suggest that the Cabinet is not as one on this to such an extent that some would feel compelled to resign over it otherwise. Which isn’t a huge surprise given some of their prior statements.
So, disappointed as I am that there wasn’t an announcement today I’m not disheartened. It looks to me like a hash job of the PR and a hefty dose of fudge to deal with internal dynamics. If a clear timetable for the Bill isn’t announced by the end of the month though I’m going to be much more concerned.
(Apologies if I’ve messed up with the language etc. here, please let me know and I’ll fix it)