Scotland politics

Registrars will not be forced to carry out gay marriage, says health minister

Scotland's health secretary has told MSPs that registrars who object to same-sex marriage would not be forced to carry out such ceremonies.

Alex Neil was taking questions from the equal opportunities committee which is examining the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.

The Scottish government has put forward the legislation in order to allow gay couples to get married.

A number of religious groups have spoken out against the plans.

Mr Neil said the responsibility to provide equal access to marriage would lie with local authorities, not with individual registrars.

He said that the experience of Civil Partnerships in Scotland showed that rights of conscience were not threatened by the new law.

Under the government plans, religious bodies would opt in to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

If a religious group decided do this, protection would also be offered to individual celebrants who felt it would go against their faith to carry out gay weddings.

Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, said: "LGBT people deserve equal treatment when accessing public services.

"That is why we agree with the Scottish government who have made absolutely clear that there will be no discriminatory opt-outs for public servants, including registrars, written into this legislation.

"If this bill is passed, it will be for local authorities to provide an excellent same-sex marriage service and to manage their registrars accordingly."

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