Even if I’m not about to run out and buy myself a wedding dress, I’m still glad equal marriage legislation is happening in Scotland. I’m also glad our legislation isn’t going to go through dozens of rewrites to placate various ageing bigots both on the Tory backbenches and in the unelected House of Lords. Of course, we could have had all of this in Scotland (and more) ten years ago had it not been for the strange decision of our MSPs to defer to Westminster and allow UK wide legislation. The Civil Partnership legislation we have as a result is a poor imitation of the Scottish proposal put forward by Green MSP Patrick Harvie which would have opened up civil partnerships and/or marriage to all.
The SNP’s new Bill may fail to deliver this basic equality and that would be a real shame (although we‘ll be back as often as we need to until we get there). We may find ourselves in a strange situation where the parties putting forward the legislation in their respective parliaments, the Tories and the SNP, will find the majority of the measly opposition comes not from the opposition benches but from their own members. This is further encouraged by the obscene situation in which the leadership of both parties will suggest that basic human dignity is somehow a matter of “conscience” on which their party members and even ministers will be given a “free vote.” This is an insult to thousands of LGBT* people because it feeds the idea that our existence is somehow a matter of opinion, or something which is up for discussion or debate. People who bully people because of their gender or sexuality don’t have a conscience. There are no special privileges for homophobes regardless of how they dress up or enunciate their bigotry, they should face the party whips. Call me a kinky bastard if you must.
Anyway, straight people probably won’t get a civil partnership and the Scottish government may even put into law protections for religious homophobes over non-homophobic people who share their religious persuasion. This is also nonsense and I really hope they just make it legal for religious (or indeed civil) organisations who people wish to conduct their ceremonies to be allowed to do so. The only real definite is that Scottish Government Ministers will be allowed to be openly homophobic. This is bad news for everyone, gay and straight who believe in an equal, tolerant society where human rights are constitutionally enshrined – something the SNP’s civic vision of nationalism holds dear. But it’s good news for those few lurkers who are hiding beneath the shiny exterior of Scotland’s largest party.
It‘s important not to underestimate or overestimate the opposition. It’s clear the SNP leadership and most of its members want this legislation to happen, ideally before independence, to avoid any potential for the right-wing anti-SNP press (i.e. everyone except maybe the Herald) to go a bit Section 28 on their Natty arses. I’m doubtless many in the SNP and in other parties are passionate about wanting marriage equality. But nonetheless when I hear people say that the SNP are decent on these issues and always have been, it’s important to remember how little they actually care that many prominent members and supporters are homophobes. So here, in no particular order, are 5 SNPers who I would consider “weeds” (our new name for anyone who crosses the Flowers).
1. BILL WALKER
[TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION OF DOMESTIC ABUSE]
Few MSPs are so universally objectionable as our first candidate. In August 2011, Bill Walker declared “anything that puts homosexual relationships as any way equal to male-female marriages is just not right.” He of all people should know about morality and traditional family values as he would go on to explain, “Ironically I got married a few weeks ago. Needless to say it was to a woman.” He said those who called him bigot had left him “upset…intimidated and almost threatened.” Now while I’m prepared to overlook his Homer Simpson grasp of what irony means, the allegation of being “almost threatened” is serious. What Walker failed to mention in all this is the woman he had just married was in fact his fourth wife. Just a matter of months later it emerged that all three of his previous wives alleged that Walker had not just “almost threatened” them but that he was a violent domestic abuser. The SNP expelled Walker although shockingly he remains an MSP and he is currently facing 30 criminal charges. Not a person the people of Scotland should be taking lessons in morality from.
2. ROSEANNA CUNNINGHAM
The “red rose” – erstwhile socialist and deputy leader, Roseanna Cunningham. I had always quite liked her to be honest. Until one day I turned on the telly and she was jabbering about “a pattern of family life which we have had for generation upon generation.” Having something for a long time is a pretty poor argument for it’s continuation. If I find a bit of old cheese in the fridge, I bin it. But Roseanna took her old cheese to Parliament and stunk out the Chamber with it as she argued that it was better for kids to have no home than to be looked after by people who might not be straight. Opposing Adoption Legislation (which was easily passed by 101 votes to 6) she responded by saying, “The Scottish Parliament vote cannot stand on its head what has come before and we cannot bemoan the consequences of family breakdown and at the same time do things that undermine the traditional family.” Firstly, I’d quite like to stand on MSP’s heads sometimes but I’m not quite sure what “family breakdown” has to do with two people wanting to care for another human being – that sounds like exactly what families are supposed to be about. I hate babies and all other forms of children, so I’m especially thankful that anyone would wish to interact with such creatures prior to them blossoming into actual people who don’t pish themselves constantly or think a square is a circle. The adoption process can be horrendous and any family who would put themselves through it deserve our respect rather than our condemnation. “Socialist” Roseanna found herself on the wrong side of dangerous radicals like Tory MSP James Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, Baron Selkirk of Douglas, who spoke passionately in favour of extending adoption rights to non-straight families.
3. FERGUS EWING
In 2006, Two firefighters were disciplined by their employers for refusing to attend gay pride to hand out fire safety leaflets. This was no great loss to the march as from memory there were plenty of men purporting to be firemen who were probably more agreeable to those of us in attendance than those two homophobic roasters. I have fond memories of going to the picket line at Cowcaddens, where the two men worked, many times to give my support, money and smokes during the FBU strike of 2002 (ungrateful bastards). While lefties are generally against workers being disciplined by their bosses for refusing to work, I pointed out at the time that being in a uniform was hardly an argument for being allowed to be a homophobe. But Scottish government minister Fergus Ewing had other ideas. He called the decision to discipline the men “unbelievable” before offering the gem, “Firefighters are entitled to their private views.” True. But what does this have to do with them not doing their jobs? When you’re offering a public service you lose your right to discriminate based on your private views. I’d rather people who may one day be required to rescue me from a burning building do not see the event as merely a fore bearer to an eternity of a similar fate. Fergus remains a homophobic whinger deep in the heart of the Scottish government and will doubtless find himself on the wrong side of the equal marriage vote. If he voted against the Government on any other issue, he would lose his job but don’t hold your breath.
4. GORDON WILSON
Speaking of the equal marriage debate, there is nothing like a group demanding some basic rights to bring forward figures from a bygone age to attempt to get in the way. Since the announcement of independence referendum, relics of the British political class have come out of the woodwork (bring it on). Similarly, the suggestion of vaguely equal marriage has gotten up the back of one of the elder statesmen of the SNP. Gordon Wilson led the party from 1979-1990, some of the party’s most troublesome years. He took an explicitly centrist direction which (shock horror) pleased neither the right nor the left. Young upstarts like Alex Salmond made Wilson’s time difficult and it was our First Minister who would eventually replace Wilson to embark on his first spell as SNP leader. Wilson’s departure from frontline politics has allowed him to focus on his many other passions, most notably, hating the gays. In 2011 he and his group Solas declared that gay marriage would violate the rights of straight people under the EU and UN conventions. Quite why the legal status of someone else’s relationship would matter to anyone else much less represent a violation of their rights wasn’t quite clear. Wilson was kicked off the Dundee Citizens Advice Bureau following his comments. Never one to be put off Wilson declared last year that the equal marriage legislation and the SNP’s leaderships support of it was proof we were heading towards FASCISM. Rumours has it he was last spotted writing Scotsman front pages.
5. JOHN MASON
I couldn’t possibly finish without mentioning this man. On a clear day if I have my specs on and squint really hard out my window I can just about make out the office of my local MSP, John Mason. Never one to be shy when it comes to putting forward Parliamentary motions on the matter, his last pathetic attempt to whip up confusion included the belter of a line “no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriages.” It’s unclear exactly what John believes is being proposed. Presumably if Alex Salmond and the SNP are capable of using some form of mind control to force people to approve of things, we can all give the referendum debate a miss. I’ve also heard rumours that there is a leaflet doing the rounds in which he reminds his constituents (i.e. me) of his commitment to “Christ’s teaching“. Again, we’re not quite sure exactly which of Christ’s teachings. Presumably not the one about loving thy neighbour. Of course if Mason is looking for guidance from Jesus on the matter – he may be searching for a long time because he didn’t actually say anything. Not that that ever stops Mason et al. from name dropping in a desperate attempt to justify their own prejudices.
So that’s that. It’s fair to say that if I was to attempting to list homophobes from the pro-dependency, pro-union parties I could probably get to 5000 without pausing for breath. So some might say this foray into nasty Nattery is rather excessive or ill conceived. But then telling people to just shoosht for the sake of the greater/straighter good isn’t something I take kindly to – nor does it actually benefit anyone.
As we count down the days to the referendum all the citizens of Scotland should be beginning to think about what kind of country we can be and most crucially how we can get there. I’ve said before that the answer to homophobes is simple – we take equality out of the debate and into the constitution of our new nation. But we must never be complacent and assume that victory is ours. We must put our ideas into proactive practice and empower people in all sections of society to challenge prejudice wherever they find it. We cannot ever give a free ride to people just because we happen to agree with what flag our country should be flying. LGBT* people and our allies in all parties and none; inside and outside the SNP, the left and the broader independence movement need to step up. We cannot be expected to be dependent on Government ministers like Fergus Ewing or Roseanna Cunningham to deliver our rights. We have to empower the human rights movement in Scotland; all those who support codifying our right to housing, food, a living wage and a family life. We should be building a movement demanding that the people affected by the laws and not politicians are allowed to write the constitution for themselves. Now that’s what I call independence!