Gay marriage to be introduced in Scotland

hands The Scottish government decision came after a consultation on gay marriage

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Scotland could become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage after the SNP government announced plans to make the change.

Ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue, indicating the earliest ceremonies could take place by the start of 2015.

Political leaders, equality organisations and some faith groups welcomed introducing same-sex marriage.

But it was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland.

The announcement was made in the wake of a government consultation which produced a record 77,508 responses.

Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.

The Scottish government said;

  • it would work with UK ministers to amend equality laws to protect celebrants from legal or disciplinary action if they refuse to take part or speak out against same-sex ceremonies.
  • a bill would be brought forward to the Scottish Parliament later this year to bring in the change.

Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: "We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships - we believe that this is the right thing to do.


Same sex marriages will not be conducted in Scotland before 2015.

Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has confirmed that the start of that year is the earliest new legislation would take effect.

That could bring the Scottish government's timetable into line with UK government plans to change the law in England and Wales.

Ms Sturgeon said it was "entirely feasible and entirely conceivable" that legislation would be going through the Scottish and UK parliaments at roughly the same time.

The UK government's consultation on allowing civil marriages for gay and lesbian couples closed in June 2012.

The coalition is analysing the results before publishing its formal response but Prime Minster, David Cameron, has promised legislation before the next election.

The Scottish government's plans go further. It wants to allow both civil and religious ceremonies, with opt-outs for religious organisations that do not support same sex marriage.

Ms Sturgeon said changes to the UK Equality Act are needed for Scottish legislation to be effective.

The Home Office said: "If changes are needed, they will be made."

It may be the ministry regards passage of its own legislation on same sex marriage as the most convenient way to do this.

If reform happens in Scotland at the same time as in England and Wales, it will allow the Scottish and UK governments to lean on each other in responding to criticism.

There are no plans to allow same sex couple to marry in Northern Ireland.

She went on: "The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.

"However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same-sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act."

The Scottish government said it was now going ahead with another consultation to consider what extra measures are needed to guarantee freedom of speech, including the protection of religious beliefs of teachers and parents in schools.

Ministers said the Scottish Catholic Education Service would continue to decide on the faith content of the curriculum in Catholic denominational schools.

Welcoming the government's approach, Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, said: "Same-sex marriage is about equality and freedom - the freedom for couples, and religious and humanist groups that want to, to celebrate same-sex marriages, but equally, upholding the freedom of other religious groups to say no to same-sex marriages.

"That's the right way for Scotland to deal with the different opinions on this."

The Church of Scotland, which will report on its own investigation of the issue in May 2013, expressed concern the government was rushing ahead with its plans.

The Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland legal questions committee, said: "We are acutely aware that opinions differ among our own members and that many people are anxious and hurt in the current situation.

"We believe homophobia to be sinful and we reaffirm our strong pastoral commitment to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs."

He added: "We are concerned the government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages."

Gay marriage consultation

  • The Scottish government held a public consultation into the issue of same-sex marriage.
  • It had the biggest response of any Scottish government consultation.
  • There were 77,508 responses in total, with 14,779 from outside Scotland.
  • Some 64% of those who responded [including postcard and petition responses] said they were against same-sex marriage.
  • Excluding postcard and petition responses to the consultation from within Scotland the outcome shows 65% were in favour and 35% against.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.

"We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships."

Civil partnerships in Scotland offer the same legal treatment as marriage, but are still seen as distinct from marriage.

The UK government, which is consulting on changing the status of civil ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to get married, wants to make the change by 2015.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    By openly objecting the Church is sealing its fate to history. It is backward and out of touch with modern civilisation. We have gone to greate efforts to find our own way and decide what is right and wrong without the concept of written words from God. The Church now looks unsympathetic and evil IMO. Eventually equality will win out and the church will be condemned by more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    To all those stuck on the 64% quote: 1) this was a consultation, not a vote; and 2) minority rights should never be put to a popular vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    If only the BBC could reverse its closure of the Scottish pages to comments on politics and economics. Get over it guys Labour lost in 2011, time to stop sulking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    To note, Christians burnt and condemned us pagens!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Why is this even an issue?

    People get married. Good on them. Whether or not they are different genders is entirely irrelevant. Scotland has realised this - why can't the rest of the UK follow suit?

    Religious types should stop being so prurient. It's none of their business who gets married to who. If they don't agree with it? Tough. Find another crusade. They've lost this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Christ will rise and make the Scots pay for this!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    @236. JamesStGeorge Actually Every poll conducted in the last 6 months shows Scots in favor of Equal Marriage the consultation was just filled with mass religious bigots. Secondly i am led to believe that a large number of these people that responded to the consultation was from outwith scotland

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    How does it take three years to change a law in England when we can change tax rates virtually overnight?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    To be honest, I don't really care that the Scottish Government has introduced gay marriage. What concerns me, however, is the fact that the Scottish Government ignored the fact that 64% of the responses said they were against it. This smacks of totalitarianism and is not a good omen for an independent Scotland. Independent? Yes, but socialist as well.

  • Comment number 281.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Salmond lost the place a long time ago . This decision will alienate the Catholics , other churchgoers , the elderly and the silent majority . It does not bode well for his chances at the next election or indeed the referendum . All this in an effort to suggest that Scotland is a progressive country . Mind you it gets the SNP publicity and it costs nothing .

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    For those asking why we can't have something other than marriage for gay couples, you are essentially advocating apartheid. Why should same sex couples be second class citizens? Also, the church doesn't own marriage and its meaning. Marriage predates Christianity and will hopefully outlive it too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    As a gay couple of 17 years and legally married for 7 years, we wish to applaud the human good sense of the Scottish legislature. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I'm sick to death of catholic bashing. I don't rant about my beliefs, I don't try to change other peoples and I don't scream at the top of my voice when things don't go my way! Live and let live - a marriage is religious, if you don't want to follow religion then why yell about marriage! Are you going to start going to church once you are married or is this all about making a point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.


    Now come on England and Wales ... what are you waiting for?

    As for the degrudgers to Gay Marriage, the religious fanatics and the rest of the anti-equality and homophobic community who dare to tell us what we can and cannot do ... I'm sticking my tongue out at you all :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    64% of respondents to a consultation are against same-sex marriage, and are ignored! So what was the point of the consultation? I would now put my money on SNP losing the Independence referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    The argument that people will want to marry animals is WEAK, in fact its laughable. A marriage is a contract, and both parties must give their consent.

    An animal CANNOT give consent, therefore, can't marry or buy a house, or sign up to become a priest.

    Drop this silly argument, because only the simplest people are swayed by it

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Best news I've heard today.
    As the mother of a gay son I look forward to the day when he mets someone special and is excepted by everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Alex Salmond 1 vs Rabid Homophobic Scottish Religious Nuts 0

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    As a Labour Party member I've not been much of a fan of the SNP Government, but really, well done to them! And thanks. At last I will feel like an equal in Scotland. And as an atheist I am delighted that religious bigots don't want to marry gay couples in their churches. The fewer people get married in church, the better as far as I'm concerned!


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