Scotland Unveils Gay Marriage Legislation

scotland-1Scotland is the latest country (just this week) to inch closer towards marriage equality and yesterday it became the first part of the United Kingdom to publish legislation allowing gay marriage.

The Scottish government will introduce a public consultation on the draft  of its proposed bill through March 2013 before it heads to Parliament for a vote. Currently, Scotland offers civil partnerships to same-sex couples, though if the bill passes the country could see its first gay marriage ceremonies by either 2014 or 2015.

Much like England’s bill, religious and belief organizations would need to “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages, though both the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church oppose the measure.

“We have…concerns about the speed with which the government is proceeding with this and what we fear will be inadequate safeguards for religious bodies and ministers and people of faith who view this as being contrary to their beliefs,” said Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland’s legal questions committee.

According to the BBC, the bill includes:

  • Allowing civil marriage ceremonies to take place anywhere agreed by the registrar and the couple, other than religious premises
  • Religious and belief bodies will have to opt in to perform same-sex marriage
  • Celebrants who are part of an organization which has not opted in would not be allowed to conduct same-sex marriages
  • Establishing belief ceremonies, such as humanist ceremonies as a “third form of marriage”, alongside religious and civil events
  • Authorizing Church of Scotland deacons to solemnize opposite sex marriage
  • Possible tests for religious and belief bodies to meet when solemnizing marriages or registering civil partnerships, in light of increasing concerns over sham and forced marriages
  • Introducing religious and belief ceremonies to register civil partnerships
  • Allowing transgender people to stay married, rather than having to get divorced, when obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate
  • Provision making it clear that the introduction of same-sex marriage has no impact on existing rights to freedom of speech and that it is possible oppose to same-sex marriage “without being homophobic”
  • Amended guidance on the teaching of the issue in schools
  • An intention to recognize same-sex marriages registered elsewhere in the UK and overseas.

“We are introducing same-sex marriage in Scotland because it is the right thing to do,” said Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil. “We are striving to create a Scotland that is free, tolerant and fair and I am pleased to say there is support across the chamber for this significant step.”