Bill published to make same-sex marriage legal in Scotland

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The Scottish Government has published the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill (Scotland) that will enable same-sex couples to marry in Scotland.

The bill follows many of the same changes in law that the British Government seeks to make in England and Wales with a small number of important differences. One particular difference is that the Scottish bill enables Humanists celebrants to legally solemnise same-sex and opposite sex couples. Amendments to secure the same change in England and Wales have failed.

The key measures that the Scottish bill includes are as follows:-

  • The introduction of same sex marriage, so that same sex couples can marry each other
  • Putting belief celebrants such as Humanists on the same footing as religious celebrants;
  • The arrangements for authorising celebrants to solemnise opposite sex and same sex marriage;
  • The process to change civil partnerships into marriages;
  • The authorisation of Church of Scotland deacons to solemnise opposite sex marriage;
  • Allowing civil marriage ceremonies to take place anywhere, other than religious premises, agreed between the couple and the registrar;
  • Allowing the religious and belief registration of civil partnerships. At the moment, ceremonies to register civil partnerships can only be civil in nature (although it is possible to have a religious or belief ceremony to mark the partnership, any such ceremony would not be recognised by the state);
  • Allowing transgender persons to remain married when obtaining the full Gender Recognition Certificate, which provides legal recognition in the acquired gender. At the moment, transgender people must convert their marriages into a civil partnership if they become a same-sex couple.

Pensions, a contentious area issue in the English and Welsh Marriage (Same sex couples) Bill is a reserved issue for the British Government and not the Scottish Government.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “After many years of campaigning for equal marriage we are delighted that the bill has today started its journey into law. We hope that our MSPs will stand by the values of equality and social justice that the Scottish Parliament was founded on and vote to pass this bill with the strong majority it deserves. Thirty-three years ago Scotland finally decriminalised homosexuality, today the large majority of Scots agree that it’s time LGBT people were granted full equality under the law. 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.”

Like the Government in England in Wales, the Scottish Government will conduct a review on the need for opposite sex civil partnerships.

A full text of the bill can be found here.