Scottish ministers have confirmed today they will bring forward a bill to introduce equal marriage. The Scottish government said it would work with UK ministers to amend equality laws, to ensure religious views were protected, and a bill would be brought forward to the Scottish Parliament to bring in the change.
Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships – we believe that this is the right thing to do. We are also mindful of the fact that the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament support same sex marriage and that there is significant parliamentary support for legislation.
“The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws. However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act.”
The Scottish government said it was now going ahead with another consultation to consider what extra measures are needed to guarantee freedom of speech, including the protection of religious beliefs of teachers and parents in schools.
Predictably, political leaders and equality groups welcomed the proposal, but it has been strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland. Despite opposition by those two denominations, faith groups, including the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, Buddhists and the Pagan Federation support gay marriage.
Gay marriage consultation
The announcement was made following a government consultation which produced the biggest response of any Scottish government consultation. There were 77,508 responses in total, with 14,779 from outside Scotland. Some 64% of those who responded said they were against same-sex marriage.