The leader of the Scottish Government’s Equality Unit has said there is no end in sight for the equal marriage debate.
Hilary Third told delegates at the opening of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation General Assembly in Edinburgh that while Scotland had made “significant progress” since decriminalisation, there was still a long way to go.
And she added that the constitutional arrangement of Scotland in the UK might get in the way of any debate on equal marriage.
Hosted by LGBT Youth Scotland and supported by the Scottish Government, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and Edinburgh City Council, delegates of the biggest stand alone IGLYO event in 25 years will spend two days discussing the most pressing issues facing gay and lesbian young people.
Ms Third said: “It would be a difficult situation if Scotland decided to bring in equal marriage rights for gay and straight couples and England did not, for example.”
Speaking to Pink Paper, Third added: “From an equalities point of view, of course equal marriage is where we want to be, but there’s a very long way to go before we get there.”
And on the issue of whether Scottish independence would benefit minorities, Third said: “It might be a red herring, a government could use the constitution in either way, to say ‘we would have done this’ but you can’t know.”
Chris Oswald from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission spoke of the struggle between faith and sexuality and said: “This one will run for years.”
Mr Oswald told the IGLYO assembly that while it was a credit to the progress Scotland had made that they had chosen to hold the assembly in Edinburgh, the country is far from perfect on queer issues.
He said: “We still live with the legacy of not being able to talk about sexuality in the classroom” and said promoting diversity in Scotland and boosting the safety of minorities was about the survival of the country.
He added: “Scotland has an ageing population, and there’s going to become a point when we have to ask, ‘are we economically viable?’
“Many generations of LGBT people have left Scotland and they won’t come back because of the treatment they faced in their communitues. We can’t afford that. This is about our survival.”
Over the next two days, over 60 delegates from more than 40 countries will discuss the future of IGLYO and vote on education policy and membership reform.
And some members of the panel gave advice to young people who face grave challenges in their own countries where homosexuality is still seen as a perversion.
Fergus McMillan, Chief Executive of LGBT Youth Scotland told the delegates that “progress was fragile, and progress can still be taken away from you”.
Created in 1984, IGLYO is an international, membership based umbrella organisation run by young people to empower its members in better representation of queer youth and student issues.
For more information, log on to iglyo.com/ga.