Equality Network condemns threat to block Scotland’s same-sex marriage bill through courts

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The Equality Network has criticised the campaign against equal marriage for “attempting to undermine the democratic process” by threatening legal action in order to block Scotland’s same-sex marriage bill.

Scotland For Marriage are threatening to seek a judicial review of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill in an attempt to prevent same-sex marriage being legalised in Scotland.

The group, made up of religious opponents of equality, has taken legal advice from Aidan O’Neil, QC, who has said that ministers acted “unlawfully” by bringing forward the legislation without a full consultation.

But the claims have been dismissed by Scotland’s Equality Network.

Policy Co-ordinator Tom French said: “Scotland’s equal marriage bill has been one of the most consulted-on laws in the history of the Scottish Parliament. Over the past two years of consultation there have been many opportunities for those on both sides of the debate to have their say.

“The Scottish Parliament should now get its chance to vote on whether to give same-sex couples the right to marry. Any attempts to block the democratic process in order to hold up the bill would be completely unacceptable.”

He added: “The threats of legal action are particularly absurd given that it was Scotland For Marriage’s own fault that their consultation responses were never received. To cry foul over their own mistake is like a football club trying to get the whole league suspended because it bought uncomfortable boots for its own players and now claims to have been disadvantaged.”

Earlier this month, Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil told MSPs that registrars who object to same-sex marriages will not be forced to carry them out.

The senior Scottish National Party MSP said the responsibility to provide equal access to marriage in Scotland would lie with local authorities, not with individual registrars.

But he stressed that it was a requirement of all authorities to ensure same-sex couples had absolutely no barriers to marriage ceremonies.

In response, the Equality Network warned against allowing registrars to opt out of the proposed legislation as a point of principle.