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.

Analysis

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
    +4

    Comment number 410.

    Where Scotland leads, hopefully the rest of the UK will follow. Thank God for devolution.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 409.

    @197
    'Only a man and a woman can provide a stable family environment'
    'Gay couples cannot have blood children, and therefore they cannot provide the same love and care that a normal couple could'

    So by your reckoning single parents should have their children taken off them and people who adopt can't provide a loving environment either.
    What stupid 'reasoning' That's an oxymoron..

  • rate this
    -33

    Comment number 408.

    Very sad day for Scotland.

    The bible clearly states that homosexuality is wrong. If someone wants to practice that, fine, but do not bring religion into it. You have decided against that when you chose that lifestyle.

    You can't pick and choose parts of the Bible to suit yourself.

    It is making a mockery of Christianity

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 407.

    Smaller and more tolerant countries. It's the way of the future, you cannot change it, it's happening. If Scotland becomes an indepedent country imagine what that will mean for minority peoples around the globe. Long live a better world for everyone.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 406.

    There should have been no consultation: Scotland should have just legislated for marriage equality.

    Voting on civil rights is inappropriate because people will always vote to gain or keep privilege and the majority will hence always vote against the civil rights of the minority.

    If marriage is deemed a civil right, it should be a civil right for all, regardless of majority opinion. bit.ly/KDtlbd

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 405.

    Very proud to be Scottish today! The Scottish Parliament have shown the finger to the Church and all that oppose gay marriage because a book says so.

    Much like the HYS on Obama's Gay Marriage support I am delighted to see the homophobic comments here being voted negatively. The world ain't so bad after all.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 404.

    If religious people want to live in medieval days then fair enough. No-one is forcing them to be gay and get married. Nor is they're church going to be forced to have these ceremonies. Marriage was around before religion so stop trying to monopolize. Also the vast majority of folk can't even be bothered to attend church on a sunday, that's how much they care about religious teachings!

  • Comment number 403.

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

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 402.

    Straight & see other people as just people. Marry? good luck to them, they are not a different species.

    What shocks & entertains, is the level of hate of so-called Christians who are anything but. Maybe they should read their rants & then might be enlightened enough to enter the 17th century one day !
    You would think gays were burning priests in wicker figures everyday from the responses.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 401.

    One of the duties an enlightened government has is to explain to the public why decisions need to be taken that might seem unpalatable to some but must be done in a democracy. Over anything to do with LGBT rights, a lot of people have problems. But it needs to be explained to them that people should have the RIGHT to get married, and a government or anyone else has NO right to stand in their way.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 400.

    @the-moog #26, Marriage has been around a lot longer than conventional religion (accepting that religion itself is outdated and borne out of ignorance). Since when did religion have a monololy on marriage? The mere suggestion is laughable, full of pomposity, and reaks of hate. Here's a proposal based on love and union, and there you go, seeking to divide on religious grounds!

  • Comment number 399.

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

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 398.

    If society is willing to offer the same rights to couples, whatever their composition then so be it I guess..?

    Homosexuality seems to be part of human nature, by criminalising or marginalising it in the way that some people do does not seem to be right. To classify it as a crime seems wrong as there are no victims.

    re the prison argument, that seems to be more about power and control...?

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 397.

    This is brilliant news. Hopefully there will be a way of those of us with existing Civil Partnerships to 'upgrade' them to marriage.

    A big 'win' for the Scottish Government and this will no doubt influence the current consultation(s?) for the rest of the UK.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 396.

    Alas, finally someone gets it right. Wake up England, Ireland and Wales - someone else having equal rights doesn't in any way impinge upon your own.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 395.

    Dear Christians, ...those who touch Mount Sinai*; taking accursed thing**; cursers and blasphemers*; adultery*; oxen, if they kill; a non virgin on wedding night*; worshipping other gods*; disobeying parents*; witchery and wizardry*; cursing King*; breaking Sabbath*.

    * stoning to death
    ** stoning to death and burning with fire, and stoning again

    Ok to be arbitrary about those ?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 394.

    @essexash - what exactly do you mean by normal? Also, at what stage did it become an issue about children being adopted into any environment? Personally I grew up in the nuclear family I assume you deem to be "normal", and I turned out to be a lesbian! My best friend grew up without a dad, in a less than "normal" environment and is straight and married to a man. What exactly is your point?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 393.

    There's something I don't get: since when did "progressive & liberal" become synonyms for "good & correct?"

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 392.

    They have civil partnership which gives them the same rights as married couples, why couldn't it be left at that? It just undermines Marriage in itself that "anyone" can do it. The bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. It annoys me now when same sex couples refer to civil partnerships as getting married. I'm not homophobic, I just think that some things should be sacred.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 391.

    Partnerships between loved ones have been around since before recorded history. Yes the term marriage and our understandings of it today spawn from religion, but marriage has formed a part of our culture. We are moving on, forming the best society we can and leaving behind this bunch of dictating fruitcakes who will soon be forgotton in history.

 

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