Scotland politics

Marriage bill includes 'belief' ceremonies as a third way

Wedding ring
Image caption Under the proposed legislation "belief" ceremonies would be an alternative to religious and civil ones

A new type of marriage could be introduced in Scotland to reflect the growing popularity of ceremonies such as humanist weddings.

The Scottish government wants to create a third category of marriage, called "belief" marriages, as an alternative to religious and civil ceremonies.

The plans are part of controversial proposed legislation which would also introduce same-sex marriage.

Last year 2,486 couples were married by humanist celebrants in Scotland.

That figure has risen from just 82 couple in 2005.

Some 1,729 couples chose to be married by the Catholic Church in 2011, and the Church of Scotland joined 5,557 couples in marriage over the same period.

New form

Currently, there are two types of marriage ceremony in Scotland - civil and religious.

The new third category is set out in the consultation paper on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.

Since June 2005, celebrants belonging to the Humanist Society of Scotland have been authorised on a temporary basis to solemnise marriage.

Such marriages have been classed as "religious" under marriage law, despite the beliefs of such organisations being non-religious - a situation the draft bill aims to alter.

Under the proposals, the arrangements for authorising belief celebrants would be along the same lines as those for authorising religious celebrants.

Humanists believe, among other things, that people do not need a deity to determine what might be ethical or appropriate.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish government is 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.

"Humanist weddings are currently classed as religious. However, our current consultation on same-sex marriage proposes the establishment of a new form of marriage ceremony called 'belief', which would cover humanists.

"The Humanist Society Scotland are in favour of introducing same-sex marriage."

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