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 158.

    '152 Adam. You have this back to front, the people not respecting are the No camp. They want to force their beliefs on everyone else ie no gay marriage anywhere. Toe our line.
    The yes camp only want gay marriage between those that want it. It is not forcing others to marry the same sex.

    It is your camp that refuses to respect and seeks to undermine the rights and wishes of others.

  • Comment number 157.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Two men or women getting married in a Dundee registrars will have no impact on the lives of anyone else in the country. It will have no impact on the marriages of anyone else in the country. The no brigade on the other hand want their opinions to have a direct impact on the lives of gay people.
    The no camp are trying to impose their beliefs on everyone. The yes camp only want it for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I honestly cannot comprehend why this debate even has to happen.

    Whether we are gay, straight, transgender, black, white, asian... Who cares!? People should be allowed to marry whoever they want regardless of the mindless labels society and religion puts upon us.

    Religion is ridiculous and should have NO part within politics, human rights or education.

  • Comment number 154.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The "reality and history of the one ring" is evident in the Fellowship of the Ring. The orc lifestyle is sinful and a product of Morgoth. Eru Ilúvatar judged the orcs when He rained fire and brimstone upon Moria and the Balrog. However in His mercy Eru Ilúvatar saves orcs today, just as He did at the Grey Havens: "Blah blah nonsense..." (I Disco 28/06/2013).

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    148. David Blunt

    Excellent post.

    One of the main problems surrounding the gay rights debate is that too many people refuse to respect the views of other people with differing opinions.

    I believe that homosexuality is sinful and that people can and do turn away from it. I hold those beliefs not because I'm a bigot, but because they're part of the teachings of a faith I genuinely believe in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    The world has advanced to accept that person cannot be defined or limited by his skin colour, but there are still, incredibly, some people who think that the genitalia at birth, and the 'M' or 'F' written on a birth certificate should dictate the path of a life, regardless of feelings and instincts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.


    I see your problem. Putting reality in the same sentence as Bible. It's a man made pile of fantasy.

    Some people are gay, deal with it. All of them are human, same as you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    David Blunt 148
    And if your daughter is raped will you force her to marry her rapist? Are you wearing poly-cotton cause you know, God doesn't like that. The Bible is obsolete in the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    The "reality and history of homosexuality" is evident in the Bible. The homosexual lifestyle is sinful and a product of the fall. God judged the homosexual lifestyle when He rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. However in His mercy God saves homosexuals today, just as He did at Corinth: "And such were some of you..." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Adam 145 'and base my views on the testimonies of people from the post-gay community who've successfully denounced their gay past.'
    Oh the brainwashed.
    If you think your gay friends do not deserve the same equal rights as you do then you DO see them as lesser individuals. Google 'bigot'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    "people from the post-gay community who've successfully denounced their gay past."

    Oh my, somebody needs to do some (non-fiction) reading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    144. JaneyK72

    But I don't see them as lesser individuals. If I did that to everyone who in some aspect of their lives does things which my Christian faith teaches is sinful, then I'd be a very lonely person.

    I've looked into the whole choice issue surrounding homosexuality and base my views on the testimonies of people from the post-gay community who've successfully denounced their gay past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Adam 141 They 'choose a gay lifestyle'.? There really is no point in debating with someone who doesn't understand the reality and history of homosexuality. I wonder how the gay friends you speak of feel about you seeing them as lesser individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Can not believe this may be allowed to happen and also gay ministers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Religion holding us back again, Arch Bishops on important committees that should have nothing to do with them. 2013, we're doing something wrong.

    When religious people lie to make their argument work (about them being the silent majority etc,) what do their gods think about it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    136. JaneyK72

    "The majority just go about their lives like anyone else and want to be treated equally."

    I've always believed that if people choose to lead a gay lifestyle they should expect to be seen as different by the rest of society. That's a fact of life that's existed since time immemorial, and can't be changed by legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    @135 Marriage has nothing to do with religion. Religion is in decline and that's to be celebrated. For too long religion and politics have been intertwined. If two people love each other they should be able to marry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Gay marriage is the new demarcation between liberal democracy and the old world. Don't let yet another generation be crippled with the burden of having to live a double life.


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