Scottish Parliamentary committee rejects attempts to waterdown same-sex marriage bill

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The Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee has rejected amendments supported by opponents of same-sex marriage.

The committee was tasked with considering amendments to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill before MSPs vote on a final version of the bill early next year.

On Thursday, they rejected proposed amendments that allowed civil registrars and all other public sector workers to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

An amendment which would introduce a clause stating that a potential adoptive parent or foster carer’s views on marriage cannot be taken into account during the fostering or adoption process was also rejected.

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “I do not consider it necessary to amend the law on fostering and adoption in relation to same-sex marriage.

“It is already the case that views on same-sex marriage cannot disqualify anyone from becoming a foster carer or an adoptive parent.”

He added that “views on same-sex marriage are likely to be irrelevant” in the process.

Two amendments supported by the Equality Network, the Scottish LGBT equality charity, were agreed unanimously by the committee, including an amendment to allow couples with foreign civil partnerships to convert them to a marriage in Scotland, and one to allow religious and belief bodies to use gender-neutral language in marriage ceremonies if they wish.

Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said: Scotland’s equal marriage bill will provide a fair balance of rights and freedoms for all. We are very pleased that the Scottish Parliament today made the right choice to reject unnecessary amendments that would have reintroduced discrimination and rolled back equality for LGBT people.”

Last week, Scotland for Marriage threatened MSP’s with small majorities at the ballot box with the loss of their seat if they made no amendments to the current equal marriage proposal.

In November, MSPs voted in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill at stage one by an overwhelming majority of 98 in favour to 15 votes against.

The vote was a ‘free vote’, meaning that MSPs were not guided or ‘whipped’ by their parties to vote either way. Those voting for equal marriage included the leaders of every political party represented in the Scottish Parliament.

Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland.

A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network in June 2012 showed 64% of Scots in favour of same-sex marriage, with just 26% opposed.