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 350.

    Idra, Karlos et al: If you're a Christian, you need to remember John 13:34: "I give you a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." This is the 'golden rule' and I don't see much evidence of it in your words. And if you want Leviticus, try 19:18: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself."

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    My sympathies for the discriminations on gays, are rapidly starting to evaporate as I suspect it is with most others.
    They have become inclusive in just about every area, and indeed in many fields of life they have a severe over representation
    They have been offered the hand and now wish to take the whole arm, body, mind and agenda.
    Quit complaining now you are ahead and avoid public resentment

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    "The public know what the word married means"

    do we? Does it mean a man & woman in a loving relationship together under 1 roof - eg. cohabiting? Please define marriage in the manner you mean.

  • Comment number 347.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    To all those against who are horrified by this I have some simple advice: don't marry someone of the same sex and let people who you have no connection to just get on with their lives.

    The church does not own marraige.

    I hope the Westminster government now follows Scotland's lead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Very happy for this decision. The way I see it, the folk that still have something negative to say about it... well, your opinion really counts less now than it did before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Some of the lowest rated comments here are quite astounding. It shows what the majority thing comparing highest rated and lowest rated though, it's almost completely inverted! I like reading good news!

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    This is proof positive that our civil leaders have no thought of a Creator God in their deliberations. What is being legislated is contrary to God's order of things as laid out in th Bible, and will hurry on moral and social decline in our country.To apply Judges 21:25 to today, 'In those days, Scotland had no God; everyone (leaders particularly) did as he saw fit. Sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Whilst England's legislators refuse to review matters that appeal to people, or deliberately go through umpteen debates to stall progress, Scotland just moves on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    285. banner
    Christ will rise and make the Scots pay for this!! True - weddings are not cheap. But from my understanding of Christ - God is love and all that - he'll probably chip in with the cost - or at least buy a nice gift. He loved everyone - enough with the hate - its gone on far too long and got no-one - time to let love take over. I think he's have far more to say on paedophile priests

  • Comment number 340.

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

  • Comment number 339.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    65% SS marriage. Democracy?

    As a Christian I say fine, get married as my aim is to bring people to Christ. Dictating through law doesn't facilitate this. However I do not agree with SS marriage and think people who say 'let people do what they want as long as it doesn't harm me' have missed the point. Time will reveal this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    The haters bang on about the 'sanctity' of (presumably straight) marriage.

    So - when a straight couple divorces, what happens? Decapitation? Excommunication? Exorcism? Slap on the wrist?

    In fact, none of the above. They just get to do it all over again! For most straights marriage is no more sacred than a ride on a funfair rollercoaster...

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Surprised this even gets a mention. Just as surprised as I am to read such hatred against people who choose to be gay.

    Good luck to them that they can rise above it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    Left is Left and Right is Right.
    Blue is Blue and Green is Green.
    You are not guilty of Apartheid simply because you refuse to redifine Blue as Green
    Marriage is a union between a Man and a Woman.
    A union btween a single sex couple is something else. I don't care what you call it, but it is NOTa marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    @277 May I point you to my post @77
    If God doesn't like the Idea then let God deal with it.
    Or are you one of those Christians who seem to think that because you think god doesn't like it you must be judge jury on this matter

    The only reason the church may marry is because they have a licence to, issued by the state and as with all state issued licences they must reflect the government's wishes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.


    That's just rot obviously.

    What your next door neighbours do for their family holiday affects the way that you look upon your family holiday.

    I would say that marriage being a cultural phenomanon is an absolute given.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Confused. A homosexual couple can have a civil partnership which bestows the same rights as marriage. Noise is made that they still need equality in "marriage" presumably meaning they can be married by whomever they choose I.e in church. Legislation is passed saying they can, except where someone chooses not to. So is this really legislation to change the name of a CP to marriage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    The fact this is considered newsworthy saddens me deeply, gender should be as much a non-issue in marriage as hair colour. Isn’t it time we moved on from what is quite an insubstantial argument. If a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman love each other that should be all that is required.


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