Gay marriage a step closer in Scotland

Faith Groups launch the campaign for gay marriage, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in April
Faith Groups launch the campaign for gay marriage, at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in April Photo: David Cheskin/PA Wire

The day after the UK Government announced plans to legislate on same-sex marriage the Scottish Government has published a draft bill on the issue.

Like that outlined at Westminster, the Holyrood legislation would give homosexual couples the right to marry, but allow churches and individual celebrants the right to opt out.

The draft legislation also includes provisions to remove the requirement for a married or civil partnered transgender person to divorce before obtaining full Gender Recognition and will allow civil marriages to take place anywhere a couple and their registrar choose.

Faith Groups launch the campaign for gay marriage in April
Faith Groups launch the campaign for gay marriage in April Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

With a majority of MSP’s having already pledged their support to the bill it looks likely to pass in parliament with relative ease when brought forward next year. The main opposition to the bill has come from Conservative MSP’s - seven out of the ten of those declaring they are against same-sex marriage are Tories. This is in conflict with Prime Minister David Cameron who is trying to shed his party of its anti-Gay image.

Those campaigning for the law have welcomed the step forward taken by Westminster yesterday and the publication of this draft bill in Scotland.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:

Today Scotland has taken a huge step forward towards full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We welcome the draft equal marriage bill, wholeheartedly agree with the proposals and look forward to engaging in the consultation on its implementation. This is a simple matter of equality and religious freedom. LGBT people deserve equal rights under the law including the right to get married to the person they love. Equally religious bodies should have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to conduct same-sex marriages, currently all religious bodies are wrongly banned from doing so regardless of their beliefs. These proposals are fair and progressive, and as a result we expect the final legislation to get the backing of a clear majority in Parliament

James Morton, Coordinator of Scottish Transgender Alliance, said:

We are delighted that the draft bill extends marriage to couples regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The true test of this legislation will be in whether it removes the inhumane requirement to divorce for all transgender couples living in Scotland, whether they were married here or anywhere else in the world.

Meanwhile the Church of Scotland and Catholic Church in Scotland are still strongly oppose the move describing same-sex marriage as neither civilised, natural or legitimate. The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland Cardinal Keith O’Brien has previously declared the legislation as a "grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right".

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond with Cardinal Keith O'Brien in 2010
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond with Cardinal Keith O'Brien in 2010 Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

He believes that the legal rights of marriage are already extended to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and that this legislation would completely redefine the institution of marriage that is widely accepted by society.

Despite this vociferous opposition, opinion polls suggest the public is largely on the side of the Scottish Government in supporting same-sex marriage and it is does look like gay couples will soon be allowed to marry in churches across Scotland.