Things get a bit confusing, apparently, if you are one half of a gay couple whose symbolic wedding was as public as it could be, right outside the Scottish Parliament.
Inside, a few hours earlier, MSP had passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill by 105 votes to 18.
This was one of the “great historic days” said Alex Neil, the Health Secretary, “because of the message it sends out about the new Scotland we are creating: live and let live.”
For Larry Lamont, 80, Mr Slater’s partner, the historic day had been a long time coming. The brutal discrimination and abuse he had suffered as a young man only stopped when he “had the wisdom to marry” his wife in 1965.
“My life was transformed, the trouble suddenly all stopped,” said Mr Lamont, an Aberdonian. “I had a happy marriage. I’m sure my wife must have known [about my sexuality] though it was never mentioned. But I think she strongly suspected the vicar who married us.
Sadly, said Mr Lamont, his wife had died of cancer after 21 years. He didn’t rush out and take control of his life, but continued working as a psychiatric nurse. The truth about his sexuality eventually dawned in 1991, when he watched the BBC film adaptation of David Leavitt’s The Lost Language of Cranes. It told the story of a married father who is secretly gay.
“I thought, ‘Dear God, I am that very man,’” recalled Mr Lamont, dressed for yesterday’s ceremony in a Lamont tartan kilt. “I knew what he was going through: he was gay, trying to live out his life in a married world. I thought: ‘I must do something about this. I can’t just waste the rest of my life waiting on the grave.’”
He rang a helpline in Newcastle, close to where he was living. “I said to the young girl who answered: ‘I’ve always had gay feelings, but I’m 60-odd.’ She said, ‘O, you’ve years to go yet’ and sent me a copy of Gay Times. There was an advert for old gays looking for company. I sent a cheque off and the cuts came back a month later but I couldn’t find anybody. Another ad came up, so I sent another 15 quid. That was how I met Jerry.”
The two moved in together in 1994. Marriage was important, said Mr Slater, 73. “Equality is the main thing, something we have been denied all our lives. Larry has had to live from times when homosexuality was illegal. Now equality is in kissing distance and it’s fantastic.”
Outside the parliament, the crowd slowly dispersed, and the handful of protesters from United Christian Witness against Same-Sex Marriage began to pack their placards into the boot of an estate car. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” read one banner; “Where will you spend endless eternity?” inquired another. “In heaven or hell?”
The Equal Marriage legislation reflected neither majority opinion in Scotland, insisted Donald John Morrison, from Inverness, nor the message of the Bible.
“The first time they discussed this in Parliament was on 20 November — to us that was Black Tuesday. Within three weeks a helicopter fell out of the sky in Glasgow. At this moment there are floods and winds that are causing havoc. These are God’s judgement on our land and on our nation.”
Just 50 yards further on, Sister Ann Tici of the Order of Perpetual Indulgence could find no words of encouragement for Mr Morrison. “We have equal marriage but many more things need to happen — polyamorous marriage for one,” said Sister Tici, whose white make-up almost concealed his beard. “There needs to be a helluva a lot more rights. When we have finished with this country and the countries round about we will spread out across the world until every single person can wake up and not feel threatened or unequal in their society. We are all essentially human.”
A rainbow burst out over the Parliament building. There was no plague of frogs.