LGBT people and their allies in Scotland have less than five hours to ensure a public consultation on gay marriage goes their way.
Anti-gay campaigners are trying to derail the Scottish Parliament’s marriage equality bill – calling for limitations so officials can refuse to wed lesbian and gay couples and teachers can tell their pupils that gay marriage is wrong.
And the public consultation on the bill will close at 5pm local time this evening (20 March).
Scotland for Marriage, the umbrella group opposing same-sex marriage in Scotland, is trying to block same-sex marriage and roll back LGBT equality in areas like education and public services.
They are running a well-funded campaign to encourage thousands of anti-equality submissions to the Scottish Government consultation.
The demands include:
The Equality Network – the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality charity that established the Equal Marriage campaign in Scotland – say these changes would set back equality in the country.
They say Scotland for Marriage’s plans are a version of Section 28 – the 1980's British ‘gay gag’ law that effectively banned teachers from talking about LGBT issues in schools.
Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said: ‘With time running out it is vital we encourage people to speak up for LGBT equality by responding to the consultation on Scotland’s equal marriage bill.
‘Opponents of LGBT equality are running a very well-funded campaign to block same-sex marriage and roll back LGBT equality in other areas. If people want a progressive bill that stands up for equality it is crucial they make their voice heard now.’
The consultation is about the equal marriage legislation for Scotland – separate legislation is currently going through the UK Parliament for England and Wales. But anyone in the world can respond to the Scottish consulation.
Once the consultation is over the Scottish Government will make any changes to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill before introducing the final version to the Scottish Parliament in the summer.
The Equality Network also wants people to suggest whether the draft proposals could be improved. In particular they are working to lift the ban on mixed-sex civil partnership and improve the Gender Recognition process for transgender people.
Two-thirds of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have now signed the Equality Network’s ‘Equal Marriage Pledge’ committing to voting in favor of same-sex marriage. Signatories include First Minister Alex Salmond, all cabinet ministers, and the leaders of all four opposition parties. Whilst 87 MSPs have now said they will vote in favor, 11 remain publicly opposed.
Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland. A poll in June by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network showed 64% of Scots in favor of a change in the law, and just 26% opposed.