Comment: The Scottish Government must end the spousal veto and uphold the rights of trans people

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With a committee today endorsing Scotland’s equal marriage bill, the Equality Network’s Tom French says the challenge is to make sure the legislation fully caters for trans and and intersex people.

This morning the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee published its report into the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill with a firm recommendation that MSPs should pass the bill at the Stage One vote, which is now expected within days.

If the bill does pass this vote it will then go back to the committee to make any amendments (Stage Two) and then back to the whole Scottish Parliament once more for a second and final vote on the bill as amended (Stage Three).

The Stage One vote will reveal whether MSPs support equal marriage and allow the bill to proceed, or whether they will reject the bill and deny equality to LGBT people in Scotland.

In some ways it is the most crucial vote, as MSPs are unlikely to subsequently change their position in significant numbers. That’s why the Equality Network is calling on LGBT equality supporters to get in touch with Scotland’s politicians now and call on them to vote for the bill: 

Beyond the headline recommendation, the committee report brought good news for the five amendments that the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance (STA) are proposing in order to improve the bill and to ensure equality for trans and intersex people.

The committee unanimously backed the aims of four of our amendments, calling on the Scottish Government to end the spousal veto on gender recognition, introduce simpler evidence requirements for long-term transitioned people, allow the option of gender-neutral marriage ceremonies, and allow people with foreign civil partnerships to get married in Scotland.

On our fifth amendment, to change the minimum age for gender recognition to 16 in line with the age for marriage, the committee urged the Scottish Government to look into the matter more fully.

On Tuesday, the Equality Network held the largest ever Scottish Parliament reception with over 500 supporters from across Scotland in attendance. LGBT people from across the country gathered to take part in the launch of our final push for equal marriage.

At the reception we made the case for the five amendments and MSPs heard from people who would be affected by the spousal veto. Addressing the crowd, Alex Neil MSP, the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for the bill indicated that the Scottish Government were in listening mode.

Now that the committee has made clear that it supports the principles of our amendments the ball is in the court of the Scottish Government to show its commitment to trans equality and not repeat the same mistakes that were made at Westminster.

We believe there is strong support across the Scottish Parliament for these amendments, indicated by the number of MSPs that have offered to move them.

We hope that the Scottish Government will listen to the committee’s recommendations, look at the evidence, back the amendments and, in doing so, uphold the rights of trans and intersex people.

Tom French is policy co-ordinator at the Equality Network