Scotland for Marriage Campaign Requests Would Set Back Anti-Homophobia Work in Education

Mhairi McMillan, Policy Director at LGBT Youth Scotland has said “We are disturbed and saddened by the latest approach taken by the Scotland for Marriage group, which has been to bring the debate into our schools. Evidence clearly shows that talking supportively about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our schools supports their inclusion, helps prevent homophobia and homophobic bullying and supports the development of positive emotional and physical health and wellbeing for all young people. Surely this is something we should all be able to agree we want for all of Scotland’s young people?”

It is right and proper that in our Scottish democracy we have heard various views in relation to the introduction of same-sex marriage. This is a discussion about changes to both civil and religious marriage across Scotland and equality groups have supported all religious bodies’ right to opt-out of conducting same-sex marriages if they choose.  It most definitely is not about the Scottish School curriculum.

The introduction of Curriculum for Excellence ensures that young people are supported around the area of health and wellbeing; the Equality Act 2010 further supports this by ensuring a public duty on schools to both foster good relations and to prevent discrimination.  Preventing homophobic bullying is achieved by talking about LGBT people’s lives and families and acknowledging the discrimination and prejudice that they face.  Catholic Church media spokesperson Peter Kearney said that schools should instead teach that same-sex relationships were “harmful, risky and dangerous” and can lead to “premature death”; these messages are both untrue and harmful and undermine anti-discrimination work. We must remember that schools are public bodies and they are bound by the public duty for good reason - we want young people to be taught to celebrate difference, to respect equality and to live their lives free from bullying.

An amazingly inspirational campaign called ‘It Gets Better’ aims to show young people contemplating suicide as a result of homophobic discrimination or bullying, that life does get better.  We need to support our schools to prevent homophobic bullying by standing up to that challenge and supporting young people to see Scotland can be a better place for them to grow up and live in.  To quote the first minister Alex Salmond’s ‘It Gets Better’ campaign video “LGBT young people have differences that should be celebrated not discriminated against…ahead of you awaits a brighter future”

The negative messages young people are currently hearing in the media from opponents to equal marriage are damaging enough and there is certainly no place for such negativity in Scotland’s Schools.