Scotland's gay marriage bill published at Holyrood

Same-sex marriage Civil partnerships, but not same-sex marriage, are currently legal

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A proposed bill to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland has been published at Holyrood.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill aims to revise the law, while protecting rights of religious groups not to carry out ceremonies.

The plan will now undergo scrutiny before committee members and in the Scottish Parliament chamber.

Anti-gay marriage lobby group, Scotland for Marriage, promised to start targeting MSPs, urging them to vote no.

A spokesman said constituents would be encouraged to visit the politicians' surgeries and demonstrate outside their offices.

He added: "We can guarantee, we will not be going away.

"We will take our fight to the ordinary people of Scotland in cities, towns and villages across the country."


"Same sex marriage is controversial among MSPs but a clear majority are expected to support the legislation.

"The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has said that SNP members will be allowed to vote with their conscience. Other parties will also allow a free vote.

"All cabinet members are expected to vote for a change in the law, even if at least one deputy minister is unlikely to follow their lead.

"There are opposing views within all three main political parties at Holyrood.

"But it is not nearly as divisive for any of them as it was for the Conservatives at Westminster where almost half David Cameron's MPs voted against.

"Even so, same sex marriage has been supported for England and Wales by votes in both the Commons and the Lords.

"The equivalent legislation for Scotland is expected to receive final parliamentary approval early next year.

"There will then need to be changes to the UK Equality Act to underpin the protections on religious freedom and freedom of speech.

"It will be 2015 before gay and lesbian couples will actually be able to legally marry in Scotland."

The government said the bill would also allow civil ceremonies to take place at a location other than a registrar's office.

Talks have been taking place with the UK government because ministers at Holyrood believe an amendment is needed to UK equalities legislation to protect individual celebrants who may not want to conduct same-sex ceremonies even if their church, as an organisation, backs them.

Scotland's Health Secretary Alex Neil said the publication of the same-sex marriage legislation marked a "historic moment for Scotland and for equal rights in our country".

The Scottish government proposals also aim to protect the rights of religious celebrants and groups who are opposed to allowing gay couples to wed.

Mr Neil told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We are striving to create a Scotland that is fairer and more tolerant, where everyone is treated equally. That is why we believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

"A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this bill.

"At the same time, we also want to protect freedom of speech and religion, and that's what the bill sets out to do. That is why it will be up to the religious body or individual celebrant to decide if they want to perform same sex marriages and there will be no obligation to opt in."

After the bill was published, Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland issued legal advice in relation to comments that could be submitted as part of the government's same-sex consultation.

He said criticism of sexual orientation "is not in itself an offence".

Highly offensive

Mr Mullholland added: "People have the right to express their own opinions, particularly during the passage of the bill through the Scottish Parliament. Legitimate comment is part of the democratic process.

"The prosecution service recognises that freedom and also the sensitivity of the issues and the strength of opinion surrounding same sex marriage."

He said he had published the guidelines to "ensure a consistency of approach by prosecutors across Scotland in deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a case where comments are made either in opposition to or in support of same-sex marriage which might be viewed as highly offensive".

The guidance points out the European Convention on Human Rights states that all people are guaranteed the right to freedom, conscience and religion, along with the freedom of expression.

SNP MSP Marco Biagi, who is gay, said it was now down to politicians to ensure the bill "does what it says on the tin".

He said: "The bill needs to maintain the freedom of religion for faiths who disagree, while also granting religious freedom for the first time to those faiths - like the Quakers - who have long wanted to perform same-sex ceremonies and have been forbidden from doing so."

The Equality Network, which supports the legislation, said it was time lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were granted full equality under the law.

Spokesman Tom French said: "By passing equal marriage legislation our MSPs will not only be giving same-sex couples an equal right to celebrate their love through marriage, they will also be sending out a message to the world about the kind of fair and progressive country Scotland wants to be."

But Dr Gordon MacDonald, from Scotland for Marriage believed that same-sex marriage was not an issue of equality.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: "It is not an issue of equality because of the legal rights of marriage now given to same-sex couples with civil partnerships - is it is not a matter of equality at all."

He added: "Even if ministers of religion themselves can opt out, it doesn't mean that church buildings won't be used for this purpose against the wishes of their congregation."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he hoped parliament would ensure "swift and effective passage" for the bill.

He added: "This is a great day for the LGBT community and signals an important, natural step towards the fairer Scotland we all wish to see."

But Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell, whose Scottish party leader Ruth Davidson is gay, said she believed marriage laws should stay as they are.

She added: "I think it is now the rights of people who believe in marriage that are under fire and in danger. For that reason I don't see any need or necessity for same sex marriage - civil partnerships gave all the rights that were required and were long overdue."

Ms Mitchell's view was at odds with her Tory colleague Jackson Carlaw, who said he believed the bill's time had come.

He added: "As someone who has been happily married for 25 years, I see no reason why same-sex couples who wish to make the same commitment to one another should not be able to do so."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Comments seem to get removed from this site for simple criticism on Re-defining marriage on the basis that it might offend someone. That is totally wrong. I am deeply offended by people who promote such folly as a desirable outcome, though I must add being indifferent to homosexuality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Any couple can have a commitment to each other, that is a matter between them. But this is about society being frogmarched into accepting homosexual relationships as equally valid with heterosexual ones. Clearly they are not - if everyone indulged in the former, the species would die out. Homosexual people themselves recognise the divergence by referring to heterosexuals as “straight”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The biblical account of Sodom is history, as Christ Himself affirmed and all who deny it will one day find out to their cost.

    Marriage is a divine institution and cannot be redefined by man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    @David Blunt, Through history the Bible has been as an argument for slavery, against equal right for women and civil rights for blacks. The Bible is silent on same sex relationships, though often misquoted to justify injustice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    11 Maximusmichaelus said:'I think I stand along with 80% of the population in vehemently opposing a re-definition of marriage'

    Your lazy assumption that your view is the majority view (confirmation bias) can easily be refuted with reference to the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey, which showed 61% in favour of same sex marriage. You can have your own opinions, but not your own facts

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Good for Scotland! This law is progressive in so may ways.

    As well as allowing same sex couples to marry, it also makes Humanist Celebrants equal in law to Religious Celebrants, one of only 8 countries in the world to do so.
    The majority of current weddings are non religious so why religions think they should dictate the law is a mystery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    We are now getting to the position where minority groups have more rights than the majority. opposite sex couples cannot have a civil ceremony, so where is there an equal right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    @ David blunt
    "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly"

    I don't see that anywhere in my holy book called "Encyclopedia Galactica"

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    @27. David Blunt

    That's not history, you're using fiction to back up a flawed argument. Marriage ISN'T a religious institution. The legal part of a marriage is recognised by the State. The wedding ceremony is the religious aspect which, as a gay man, I have no interest in. I do wonder however how religious the majority of heterosexual couples getting married in church these days are though?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    While I am Catholic and opposed to homosexual acts my principal concern with this matter is the lack of democracy. The Scottish govt consulted the people and the people said no to re-defining marriage. It was clear. Yet here we are. Democracy has not applied in this instance. Why not have a referendum to clarify?

  • Comment number 28.

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

  • Comment number 27.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Honouring love and commitment, how could anyone object to that?
    I suppose the objectors are of the same mentality that opposed female suffrage and the emancipation of the slaves .

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    As a democratic country, we are supposed to have separated church and state...a long time ago.

    Therefore, it seems obvious to me that marriage (the state institution) should be separate from marriage (the religious ceremony). This means that religious people have no say in this matter.

    I wouldn't stop there, either. I'd do away with all religious schools and have religious bodies paying tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Nobody, gay or straight, has the right to deny anyone their happiness. I can only imagine the people that do, do so because they are unhappy themselves.
    In the 21st century, there should be nothing stopping this. If you are opposed to gay marriage, then the solution is simple; don't marry a person of the same sex as yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I'm not opposed to gay marriage, but personally I do think civil partnership suits me better. I think gay people, and men in particular, should be campaigning on bigger issues within the gay community. e.g. HIV & Aids

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Decree nisi all round please barman and I'll have an absolut !

    Lawyers everywhere . . . you're careers are saved !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Extending Rights, to a formerly excluded and marginalised, minority, which the Majority already enjoy will disadvantage neither party. What injury will the Majority suffer from this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The fact that such legislation could even be considered shows how far our nation has sunk into immorality. But then this is what you get if you put aside conscience, the Word of God and even common sense. The issue has nothing to do with 'equality': it is about reality and the reality is that God instituted marriage between a man and a woman. Same sex 'marriage' is a delusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Whit a load o wheech.


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