Scotland is a country of martyrs. There have been, of course, Roman Catholic martyrs. But there have been Presbyterian martyrs also. And there have been Scots Episcopalian martyrs.
For now I'm not talking about people hurt during the very nasty sectarianism of the 19th and 20th centuries. I'm talking about people who were punished and executed for believing differently from those in power in Scotland. Whether you were Protestant, Episcopalian or Roman Catholic, it has been very bad news to hold different religious beliefs from those in power in Scotland. I wrote about one Catholic Scottish martyr here.
So perhaps you can imagine my worry about Scottish plans to redefine the institution of marriage. As it so happens, the Scottish government held a consultation on the institution of marriage. It purported to want to know what the residents of Scotland thought about changing the definition of marriage to include the union of one man to another and the union of one woman to another. Two-thirds of those residents of Scotland who responded, 67%, thought that the definition of marriage should NOT be changed.
Nevertheless, the Scottish government has announced that it will be changing the definition of marriage.
That's what democracy looks like in Scotland.
The day this was announced, British media published a video filmed four months earlier of a Scottish Catholic bishop speculating, in the context of the health risks of homosexual activity, on the early death (age 44) of a Scottish politician, an ex-priest who was an active homosexual. The partner, family and friends of the ex-priest/politician duly voiced their anger and dismay.
Not very subtle, British media. But very disciplined of you not to break the story the day the bishop was named the new Archbishop of Glasgow instead. Clearly you sat on that story until the exact right moment.
Sexual activity between adult men in private was decriminalized in England in 1967 and in Scotland in 1980. The fact that there was a delay in Scotland may be because Scotland was more socially conservative than England. And civil partnerships, which means state recognition of male-female, male-male or female-female sexual partnerships (they are closed to platonic friends or family members) as economic and social units have existed in the whole UK since 2004.
In Scotland, there were 1,047 civil partnerships established in 2006, 688 in 2007, 525 in 2008, 498 in 2009 and 465 in 2010, and 554 in 2011.
Scotland has a population of five million.
Those Britons nervous about civil partnerships were told again and again that this was a solution to the gay marriage debate. They were not told that this was a way to soften them up for a change in the definition of marriage. After all, civil partners have all the same legal rights as married couples. This includes immigration, as I noticed when I did all the paperwork for my Spousal Visa and my Indefinite Leave to Remain.
But the gay marriage issue did not go away, and indeed it is back with a vengeance--more on vengeance later--and the Scottish government has decided to go with it, despite the fact that 67% of those residents of Scotland who cared enough to make their voices heard said "No."
And this scared the hell out of me because now I am in the uncomfortable position of having religious beliefs different from those in power in Scotland. And so, incidentally, does my Free Presbyterian friend Cath, who could certainly list as many Scots Presbyterian martyrs as I could list Scots Catholic ones. Probably more.
Belief that marriage is not a union of one man and one woman but the union of one adult to another adult as long as they love each other in a sexual way is a religious belief. And the god being worshipped is Eros, which activists keep calling "love."
"Marriage," emoted Seraphic, blitzed on red wine, at a dinner party to a member of the Scottish National Party, "is not about love. It is about a man and a woman in an economic, sexual and social bond for their good, the good of children, and the good of society in general."
Actually, I don't think I put it as well as that, but that is certainly close to what I said to the Scottish government during their consultation, the one they are now going to ignore, except to worry about how to get the 67% to vote for them anyway.
And I was not very interested in the definition of marriage at that point anyway. I was interested in whether Roman Catholics and Free Presbyterians in Scotland are going to be able to dissent from the government's official religious beliefs about marriage without being punished.
And by being punished I mean sued, harassed, fired or threatened with imprisonment. Because, lo and behold, that is the kind of thing that has happened to Christians in Canada. And this is a particularly serious worry in Scotland where employment discrimination against Roman Catholics was practiced right up to the 1980s. And in fields where saying the wrong thing at an Edinburgh cocktail party can ruin you.
Now, to move from the civil rights worries of the Catholics and Free Presbyterians, I will say something brief about society.
Those who wish to redefine marriage keep talking about "love." "Love" sounds great, for surely only nasty, bitter people are not moved by love.
But there is less talk about what marriage does for society, and the role of married men and women, whether or not they have their own kids, as parents in, and of, that society. To deny that married men and women have a unique and important role in society--something we recognize with the word "marriage"--is to tell a serious lie about society and men and women.
Here are links to everything you would ever want to read about the marriage