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Same-sex marriage is supported by Scotland's young people

Love Equally is a simple statement, but it challenges the current segregated marriage system that unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples.

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It was the name of a campaign launched by the Scottish Youth Parliament earlier this year, urging the Scottish Government to announce a consultation on whether same-sex marriage should be made legal.

The consultation will hear the views of all key groups and will report back before the end of the year. Ministers have made it clear that, although they are in favour of making gay marriage legal, they would not force any religious group to carry out a ceremony if it did not want to. 

It has already prompted an attack by one of Scotland’s top Catholic leaders, who says same-sex marriage would be “meaningless”.

The Scottish Youth Parliament voted for the national "Love Equally" campaign after consulting with more than 42,000 young people across Scotland and conducting a debate among 140 of its elected members.

The group, which involves people aged 14 to 25, has been working tirelessly to spread their message through a series of events, including festivals, youth group meetings and street activities.

The message is clear: our young people are no longer happy to live in a Scotland which is stuck in the past.

Same-sex marriages have been gatheing support around the world and, since 2001, countries have begun legally formalising and performing marriages. They  include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, as well as Mexico City. The USA has seen seven states making gay marriage legal -- most recently New York -- with many more considering or having adaptations of civil partnerships.

The Scottish Attitudes survey also found a majority of Scots were in favour of same-sex marriage, and that the number who backed the idea was growing.  People in Scotland want to live in a fair and equal society where we recognise that marriage should be about love and commitment, not sexual orientation.

You might be thinking what’s the big deal, and why can’t same-sex couples just have a civil partnership? Firstly, not all registrars are allowed to formalise civil partnerships -- around 15% of registrars can perform civil marriages, but not civil partnerships.  Secondly, couples in a civil partnership are not legally allowed to be referred to as "husband" or "wife", but have to be addressed as "civil partner".

Lastly, the Civil Partnership Act states that it will not allow any form of religious activity to occur during the process of registering the union. Religious and humanist organisations that wish to solemnise same-sex marriages are currently banned from doing so.

For some people, it’s a major detriment to be excluded from the chance to have their legal relationship solemnised on religious premises; for others, there are practical and social consequences of this discrimination, such as pension rights. 

I’m sure that many faith groups will study the consultation document in detail and respond to it. However, they must clearly understand that the government is not rewriting human nature.

Such groups might argue that family and marriage are built on the union between a man and woman. But society has changed and, whether you agree with it or not, family structures have also changed.

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