It was the first of May 2009 that I had the terrifying privilege of submitting the response of the Humanist Society of Scotland (as we were then) to Petition PE1239 to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament – the Petition submitted by Nick Henderson, on behalf of LGBT Network.
The subject of petition was Same Sex Marriage in Scotland.
I was on the Ceremonies Committee at that point – as well as working as a celebrant – and relished taking on the research for and drafting of our response.
I spoke to everyone: colleagues, lawyers, politicians, journalists, gay folk, straight folk and ministers of religion. I read hate speech articles and interpretations of religious tracts, and learned far more of the shocking history of the fight for rights LGBT+ people, not just in the UK but around the world.
With far too much material and no clue where to start, I was now more determined than ever that I had to do everything I could to make this happen.
So, my priority focused on why the Humanist Society Scotland should put everything we had (money, time, volunteers, energy) behind the campaign to drive this forward - if it should get to a parliamentary vote.
I had to let all my research, academic & emotional engagement in the cause go - and think law, which is not my strong point, but I could write about equality.
This sits at the heart of the Humanist approach to life, as well as in its head, as the Amsterdam Declaration of 2002 states:
Humanism supports democracy and human rights.
Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being.
It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right.
The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.
So despite my utter inability to understand intolerance, I had to set aside the complexities of history, and find my way to a clear unbiased statement:
We would encourage the Scottish Parliament to address the current disparity in the Law in the rights of same sex and different sex couples in their freedom to express their commitment to each other within the ceremonial side of their union.
Humanists think that all people have the right to emotional expression. In this context we feel that restricting an individual or couples right to express themselves within their Civil Ceremony denies them this freedom to express their values, creativity and emotional commitment, at one of the most important moments of their lives.
In addition, we would wish to see Civil Partnerships made available to mixed sex couples, who do not feel that a ‘marriage’ in the traditional sense is appropriate to their commitment ceremony or relationship.
I cried all evening when HSS Celebrant Ross Wright married Joe and Malcy on Hogmanay in 2015, and again when I said ‘You may kiss the Bride’ to the first pair of brides I was honoured to be able to marry in May 2015 (a phrase I refused to use for anyone until I could say it to everyone) the celebration of the first Civil Partnership of an opposite sex couple in Scotland is a important step toward genuine equality for everyone who chooses to celebrate their commitment to each other.
I am very very proud that - with this last stage of a 12 year project about to be concluded – I was able to make that first formal submission on behalf of the HSS, even if I’ve not been involved personally since it reached the legal stages.
I am delighted that the equality aspects that ran so deep in the original Same Sex Marriage Bill have been followed through by so many dedicated people, when much of the media concentration was on those first amazing Same Sex Wedding Ceremonies.
For a humanist, there is not much that tops a public, legal declaration that we are all equal, be that in our political, employment, educational or human rights, and levelling the privilege of Civil Partnerships to include opposite sex couples is another step toward true equality.
Thank you all.