Thursday, July 26, 2012

Equality is coming to Scotland... kindof

The Scottish government has announced that it will legislate for same-sex marriage. But it comes with a bitter twist: in an effort to placate Scotland's religious bigots, they'll be adding in a bigot-clause allowing celebrants to refuse to perform such marriages. Think about that for a moment: while they may be a member of a religious group, when solemnising marriages, a UK (and NZ, and Canadian) marriage celebrant is a public official performing a public function under law. And the Scottish government is advocating that such officials be allowed to refuse to perform that function on grounds on which discrimination is specifically prohibited in every other area.

People would not accept this for other civil servants. We would be appalled if a government suggested that passport officers, or welfare officers, or schoolteachers or judges could refuse to perform their legal duties if they didn't like your sexual orientation. But marriage celebrants are no different. And they should be subject to equality law like everybody else. And if the bigots don't like that, they have a simple option: don't be celebrants.