California Governor Jerry Brown has urged the Scottish government to keep its nerve and legalize marriage equality, saying California is a prime example of how quickly attitudes can evolve on the gay marriage question.
Democrat Mr Brown said politicians in Scotland would benefit from looking at the Californian experience.
He explained: “There was certainly opposition to same-sex marriage a decade ago, but very regularly this opposition has declined. So, I would say today maybe there is even a slight majority in favour of same-sex marriage.”
Mr Brown – who last year signed a bill making California the first US state to add lessons about gays and lesbians to social studies classes in public schools – refused to defend Prop 8 when he was the state’s top law officer.
He added: “Our job is not to give brilliant speeches only, but it is also to lead the people and to get them to follow and so that is a matter where, each leader in each community, has to make their own decision.”
The Scottish SNP Government is set to announce within the next fortnight whether it will indeed legalize marriage equality.
This comes after a 14-week public consultation that, by the time it closed in December 2011, had more than 60,000 responses. Though the SNP made it known that it favors marriage equality, it said the consultation would be used to gauge support for the measure and also to give those, particularly the nation’s religious conservatives, a chance to make their opposition known so that concerns could be listened to and, if possible, worked through.
Currently, Scottish law follows that of the wider UK in giving same-sex couples civil partnerships–these are technically legally equivalent but, marriage equality advocates argue, are a status without the cultural significance of marriage.
As is the case with England’s plans to legalize marriage equality, the Scottish government has promised that it will not force churches to conduct same-sex marriages. It remains to be seen whether the Scottish government will depart from the English playbook and allow churches, at their discretion, to perform such unions.
California of course currently has a ban on marriage equality under the now twice struck down, voter-enacted constitutional amendment known as Proposition 8. The amendment, which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year was motivated by bias and for no other reason than to disenfranchise California’s gay and lesbian citizens, remains in force however until the Supreme Court either takes up the case and sides with the lower courts, or refuses to hear the case and lets the sitting judgement stand.