Cicero has just returned from a lightening trip to Aberdeen. The Granite City is very close to my heart- as Iain Crichton Smith says "Places that have been good to us we love, the rest we are resigned to". Although it was a pleasure to see friends and family and indulge in a little nostalgia for a place that was certainly good to me, in fact amidst the gentle lanes of Old Aberdeen a small revolution was taking place.
In the clear low sunshine of a crisp December morning two old friends of mine were committing themselves each to the other. The trappings were traditional- a service of blessing in the mediaeval chapel of Kings College, followed by a champagne reception and large lunch, whilst in the evening a traditional Scottish ceilidh took place. Old friends, children playing- all the traditions of a wedding- without actually being one.
In fact it was the registration of a civil partnership. Neil and John have been a couple for longer than many marriages last- for over a decade in fact. However, if one of them had been taken ill, then the other could not be seen as next of kin. Legal and financial relations that straight couples take for granted could not be used by gay couples.
Some regard homosexuality as wrong- as somehow morally suspect or "abnormal". If that is so, then can someone explain why such a trait keeps returning in every generation. Even under profound persecution, some men and women still seem to fall in love with their own sex instead of, or as well as, the opposite sex- it seems to be part of our biological nature. Since at least the end of the 1960's most Western countries have said that homosexuality is not a crime. Slowly, over the years we have accepted that it is as much a part of the make up of human beings as left handedness or blue eyes. If we do accept this, then the discrimination against gay couples is neither logical nor kind. The persecution of gay people has not shown up our society in a very good light. Tolerance and kindness are part of the features of civilized life. Some religious extremists can not be convinced- they are entitled to their views. They are no longer entitled to continue to practice legal discrimination. As far as Christians are concerned, one might have thought that a bit of live and let live would befit the follows of Him that said "let he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone".
The relationship that was legally sealed on Tuesday is valid and valued, and not just by the individuals concerned. Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues were affirming by their presence their support and affection for two men whose hard work for their local communities is respected and admired. I truly hope that discrimination on grounds of sexuality can soon be treated in the same way as discrimination on basis of race, of sex or of religion- not legally possible. The quietly revolutionary events in the mediaeval buildings beside the cobbled lanes of Old Aberdeen were another step down the road to a more tolerant era. Congratulations to Neil and John.