Rabbi Mark Solomon Address to Equal Marriage Reception

It Gets Better

Address at Equal Marriage Reception, Scottish Parliament, 31 January 2012

Many of us will have heard of the “It Gets Better” project, where people make short videos to reassure teenagers who are bullied or depressed because of their sexuality that life does get better, that you can be gay and happy.

This reminds us that the Equal Marriage campaign we are celebrating here today is part of something much bigger, a matter of life or death for many LGBT people the world over, whose life or freedom are threatened by prejudice and unjust laws. Thankfully, here in Scotland we enjoy great freedom and many rights. But even here, it can get better.

It isn’t just that if we, as lesbian and gay people, have the legal right to marry in the fullest, realest sense, our lives will get better. We know that; we feel it deeply. I believe that, through our Equal Marriage campaign, marriage itself will get better.

It can’t be stated often enough: contrary to what some say – even a certain Archbishop just south of the Border – marriage has not always meant the same thing, and still doesn’t in many parts of the world today. Marriage has been a commercial transaction throughout most of history, in which a woman – or several women – are acquired by a man. Arranged marriage of minors was the norm for centuries. Until quite recently, many saw nothing problematic about rape within marriage. No wonder many feminists, let alone LGBT people, wanted nothing to do with the institution of marriage.

But now we see marriage as a free and loving mutual commitment between equals. Marriage has got better. We want to make it better still.

It was feminism that set me free to come out as a gay man, and I have always believed that gay rights are the logical, ethical offspring of women’s rights. Now, the possibility of two women, or two men, pledging themselves in marriage, will mean not just that we are truly equal, but that marriage itself is a relationship of true and full equality.

And equal marriage means one more thing: that this step forward that we invite the Scottish Parliament and people to take, applies equally to civil and religious marriage. One without the other would be a sham equality, giving with one hand and taking away with the other – a denial of the rights of LGBT people of faith for whom marriage is first and foremost a spiritual commitment, and a denial of religious freedom to those communities who want to treat LGBT people with full equality. Because after all, marriage is one of the main things religion does, and does best.

As a rabbi, I want to say to couples I know, who have held on and held on for the law to change: It Gets Better! There is room for you beneath the wedding canopy, and also on the legal marriage schedule. In the infinite love of the spirit of unity some of us call God, there is room for all human beings and all loving couples. So let’s make it better!

Rabbi Mark L Solomon

Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community

31 January 2012