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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  • Comment number 390.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Why on earth would that lead to social decline if 2 ppl get married? seriously.. while reading these comments i have to check my calendar every so often to make sure Im still in the 21st c. To gay ppl, it will lead to happiness and equality. To heteros, it means no change. Cant see decline here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Marriage is wrong full stop, and that's why it so often fails.

    What does someone's relationship with someone else, regardless of relative sexes, have to do with god or government?

    Why do people feel the need to back up their commitment with paperwork?

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.


    They say no relgion will be forced to perform the marriages but look at what happened to that couple who refused to let 2 homosexuals sleep in the same bed in their B&B - which was in their own home!
    No it wasn't. A B&B is a public business and as such not allowed to discriminate on grounds of race, religion or sexuality. Such discrimination is bigotry, pure and simple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    I don't think gay marriage opposers know how things work.

    If your religion says you can't watch Dr.Who on Sunday, that doesn't mean you try to outlaw watching Dr.Who on Sundays. It means YOU cannot watch Dr.Who on Sundays. I can watch all the Dr.Who on Sundays I damn well please!

    If your religion is against gay marriage, it doesn't mean you outlaw it. It means YOU can not marry the same sex.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    So we're going to stick with the rules laid down by a book written centuries ago whose words have been mistranslated, or distorted for political gain? Well then fair enough, lets introduce bigamy, reintroduce slavery, slay all those naughty people working on a Sunday, growing different vegetables side by side, or wearing garments made from different threads. That cool with everyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    In a year or two,we all be wondering what the fuss was all about. I have to say I don't think certain elements in the churches in Scotland have come out smelling of roses on this issue. Really quite unpleasant and disgraceful stuff from some of them them spinning untruths and whipping up prejudice in their congregations,and even amongst schoolchildren in their schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Leviticus does say that one man laying down with another man is an “abomination,” but it also says, very near that passage, that eating shrimp is an “abomination,” that eating rabbit is an “abomination,” that planting two seeds in the same hole or wearing clothing with two types of material is an “abomination”.
    Personally I like my prawn salad. Go Gay Marrage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Glad to know that Scotland will soon stop treating its gay citizens as second-class.

    For those who think a majority of Scots are opposed to marriage equality, please do your research. Polls indicate the opposite.

    And at the end of the day, minority rights should never be put up to a vote. Whether you like it or now, the LGBT community are equal citizens & deserve equal treatment under the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Why do they call it gay-marriage? We don't call it straight-marriage do we? Isn't it just marriage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    A fantastic outcome! : )

    Slightly depressed by some of the vitriolic and irrational comments on here. Think I might start a trade in flaming torches and pitchforks as I would clearly be raking it in.... then donate all the money to the Equality Network.

    Well done to all those who have campaigned so hard on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    The way I see it... The opinion's of those that oppose gay marriage mean even less now than then did before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    I have nothing against gays but no matter what anyone says marriage is a religious ceremony to celebrate the union of a Man and a Woman. For the Scottish Parlimant to denounce this (Do they think they aremore powerful than God?) and not listen to the majority of their voters is shameful and disappointing. Why is it when the minority shout they get what they want at the cost of others beliefs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    64% against so much for Democracy whats the point in having a consultation! to carry on regardless typical politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    I wonder how many people who condemn gay marriage on the basis of Leviticus also follow every other law laid out in there. I don't see that many men with long hair, for example.
    It is my understanding that the passages in question are there to rule out brutalisation of other people by using rape as a method of proving power over people. It does not refer to normal, loving, caring relationships.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    As a regular church attendant, in the C of E, well done scotland. We've got priest that want to do it! Why not let them? No one is proposing forcing people to do it, just letting the priest that want to do it, do it. Why would anyone appose that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Good for Scotland. I can only hope the rest of the of the UK follow suit.

    I'm saying this as hetrosexual woman with no intention of getting married.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    I wonder what Adam and Steve...sorry Eve would make of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    What strikes me is that the Christ I read about would welcome this move. It fits entirely with his philosophy of love. Maybe focussing more on Jesus and less on Leviticus and the others might help the church progress into the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    I can't say I am in favour of this.
    They say no relgion will be forced to perform the marriages but look at what happened to that couple who refused to let 2 homosexuals sleep in the same bed in their B&B - which was in their own home!


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