One step closer to equality

Louise Wilson

July 25th saw a huge leap forward for equal rights when it was revealed the Scottish government will be the first in the UK to legalise same-sex marriage. Currently, same-sex couples have the option to enter into civil partnerships, but the legislation for marriage will create equal rights for all couples.

However, in light of the opposition to the legislation, the government will allow religious bodies to refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies on religious grounds. These bodies will be under protections for the freedom of speech and religion. In Scotland, in response to consultation, 64% of respondents were against same-sex marriage. Although this figure decreases dramatically to only 35% when only taking into account standard responses, not postcards and petitions.

Although this is great news for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual community, what does this mean for Transsexual rights? I got the opportunity to ask Jennie Kermode, chair or Trans Media Watch and active campaigner on LGBT issues, a few questions on the creation of the upcoming Bill and how this will effect the LGBT community.

Guardian: How do you feel about this step towards legalising equal marriage?

Jennie Kermode: I’m thrilled that this step has finally been taken. I’ve been campaigning on LGBT rights for 26 years and when I started all we were really hoping for was to have basic legal protections and be safer on the streets; I never thought we’d get this far. Of course, that doesn’t alter the fact that by rights we should have the same opportunities in life as anyone else. There are still a few issues that need to be ironed out in relation to this law, but overall I think it’s a huge step forward that shows us Scotland is becoming a truly inclusive country. It is high time we were all recognised as full citizens with equal rights, regardless of our sex, gender or sexual orientation.

Guardian: How do you see the new law effecting the Trans community?

Jennie Kermode: In preparation for this particular piece of legislation I worked to collect the views of inter-sex people and non-binary identified trans people so that the government could understand how this would affect us. I am very pleased that Nicola Sturgeon has been receptive to our arguments and plans to take gender out of the equation altogether. If people want to give gender moral weight, that’s their private business. Beyond that, it makes sense that doctors should know it, but it has no place in contract law. Now marriage will simply become a contract between two people. Trans people will not be forced to end happy marriages if they wish to be recognised (and legally protected) in their true gender, something which has previously been the cause of much heartbreak.

Guardian: What about the still existing opposition to the creation of this Bill?

Jennie Kermode: I don’t think it’s as large as has been made out. I don’t give a lot of weight to hastily signed postcards of protest and I think it’s right that the government doesn’t. The likes of Archbishop elect Tartaglia claim to speak for all Catholics but that’s simply not true. I know many Catholics, other Christians, Muslims and so forth who support equal marriage. Those who don’t will never be forced to engage with it so their rights are not being infringed. In a democracy, we all have to accept that some people will do things we disagree with – it’s that acceptance that enables us to see our own rights protected. Some religious groups in Scotland have been accustomed to getting their way – naturally it will be distressing for them when they don’t. In time they’ll calm down and see that the world hasn’t ended.

Guardian: What do you have to say to those who believe marriage of any kind should be nothing to do with the state, and should be left to private institutions?

Jennie Kermode: For me, marriage itself is only a part of the issue. I wouldn’t personally choose to marry as I don’t think my relationships are any business of the state’s – but I still want the right to marry on the same grounds as everybody else. As long as institutions like marriage are segregated there can never be any true recognition that people are just people and love is just love. There can never be meaningful equality.