"Marriage is the union between a man and a woman."
"God. The natural law."
"But I'm not religious. We should have a secular society and secular laws. We've had civil marriages and divorce for decades in Scotland. What right do you have to impose your beliefs on me?"
"But think of the children. Marriage is about the procreation and protection of the family."
"Are you suggesting that infertile couples should be prevented from marrying? What about older couples? Marriage must be about more than children."
"Alright then: tradition. For centuries, marriage has been understood - and only understood - as the union between a man and a woman. Not women and women and men and men. We shouldn't set that understanding - that teaching - aside lightly."
"But why should tradition determine what we do today? Homophobia was also a hallowed tradition in this country for decades. Are you seriously arguing that the prejudices of the dead should govern the living? What kind of authority is that?"
"If I can draw your attention to the definition of marriage in the Oxford English Dictionary, I think you'll find --"
"But you're just avoiding my question. What kind of authority does the dictionary have? Can't concepts change, and evolve? The idea of marriage is just a human construct. Throughout history, you can find plenty of examples of marriages which don't fit your one man one woman model. Just go to Utah. And our understandings of marriage haven't remained static. Until 1991, the traditional definition of marriage made if perfectly legal for a husband to rape his wife. But the law changed. Changed late. And changed for the better."
"I wouldn't disagree with that."
"So where is this eternal, traditional idea of marriage you were defending a moment ago? It is fictional."
"I just don't agree with you. A marriage is between a man and a woman."
"It is alright for you. You can get a civil partnership. We can't. It is unequal. Unfair."
"But why do you want a civil partnership anyway?
"I just don't like the social baggage. Patriarchy. Religion. The idea of marriage just seems to come with many so many traditions, teachings and connotations that I disagree with."
"But hasn't all that changed? We've had civil weddings here for donkey's years. They've got nothing to do with God, or religion, or chattel wives. And just the other year, Holyrood introduced gay marriage. Haven't we moved on from all that stuff?"
"I'm just not confortable with the idea of it."
"But you support equal marriage, right?"
"Oh, absolutely. I'm right behind it. The arguments made against it were ridiculous. Natural law? Marriage doesn't belong to the churches. Of course people should be able to choose to be married. It is about love, isn't it? Forget the history and the tradition. It is about love, now."
"But you were talking a bit about history before. Isn't the history of civil partnerships pretty dodgy?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, they were just a stop-gap, weren't they? A softly-softly way of giving LGBT folk a few more rights without pissing off social conservatives? Didn't they just legislate for inequality?"
"I just want the choice too. I don't see why heterosexual couples shouldn't be afforded the same legal rights and choices as gay couples."
"Oh, I agree. But surely, if we just abolished civil partnerships, then we'd all be equal too? With the same choices and options? Job done?"
"But what about those who've already got civil partnerships? What happens to them?"
"That's a fair question. A good question. But I can't help but notice that you haven't answer mine. Wouldn't abolishing civil partnerships also represent a kind of equality?"
"I just feel a civil partnership would allow me to live a better, fairer life without compromising my beliefs and values, that's all."
"So is this isn't really about equality at all, is it? It's about the fact you see marriage as a traditional and religious institution. An institutional signalling the subordination of women to men."
"I want the choice."
"Except, that is, when you're arguing for LGBT couples to be able to marry. Then marriage is all about love."
"It is about choice. I want the choice."
The Scottish Government is coming under some fire in the media this morning over a consultation on the future of civil partnerships in Scotland. Much of the critique is framed in terms of equality. And this has an intuitive appeal. But if we burrow down into the debates, and remember how the campaign for equal marriage was framed just a few years ago, the case for extending civil partnerships beyond same-sex relationships to seems a little odd.
The rejection of the authority of traditional and religious understandings of marriage were at the heart of the case for the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act in 2014: equal rights, equal recognition, equal respect. Things change, times and understandings change, and the law should reflect that. The idea that marriage is now essentially concerned with love rather than procreation, or religious ideas, or tradition predominated.
By contrast, and perhaps ironically, the Scottish Government's critics today begin to sound rather like the religious and traditionalists advocates who insisted that weddings were only about "Adam and Eve rather than Adam and Steve." They argue for the choice of civil partnerships, in great part because they see marriage as inevitably soaked in reactionary religious and gender norms. The case for extending civil partnerships seems to be that the churchmen were right in the equal marriage debate of 2014. The concept of marriage really is theirs. So which is it? Has the idea of marriage shed its old skin, or not?
There is clearly an inequality in the current family law. A decision will have to be taken either to eliminate or to extend civil partnerships. But the heart of the debate is not a question of equality. It is about what distinctive good, if any, an idea of civil partnership can have, in a country were the right to marry is already civil, godless and genderless. What are civil partnerships for?