Marriage equality to be introduced in Scotland
Original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-18981287
Scotland is set to become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage after the SNP government announced plans to make the change.
Scottish ministers confirmed they would bring forward a bill on the issue.
Political leaders, equality groups welcomed the move, but it has been strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland.
The announcement was made in the wake of a government consultation which produced a record 77,508 responses.
Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.
The Scottish government said;
- it would work with UK ministers to amend equality laws, to ensure those views were safeguarded and protect celebrants from legal or disciplinary action if they refuse to take part or speak out against same sex ceremonies.
- 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."
She went on: "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.
There will also be a consultation on the bill itself, to be published later this year.
Ministers said the Scottish Catholic Education Service would continue to decide on the faith content of the curriculum in Catholic denominational schools.
Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, said: "The Scottish government have shown their determination to make Scotland a more progressive country.
"With cross-party support for equality in the Scottish Parliament, we would expect that this change can be passed next year."
Mr French added: "Same-sex marriage is about equality and freedom - the freedom for couples, and religious and humanist groups that want to, to celebrate same-sex marriages, but equally, upholding the freedom of other religious groups to say no to same-sex marriages.
"That's the right way for Scotland to deal with the different opinions on this."
England and Wales
Despite opposition by the big religions, faith groups, including the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, Buddhists and the Pagan Federation back gay marriage.
The issue also caused a split in the SNP, after a parliamentary motion tabled by party MSP John Mason, stating no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriage, led to accusations by some of his colleagues that his actions encouraged discrimination.
Gordon Wilson, a former SNP leader, has also warned plans for same-sex marriage could "alienate" people considering voting for independence in the 2014 referendum.
Civil partnerships in Scotland offer the same legal treatment as marriage in areas such as inheritance, pensions provision, life assurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights, but are still seen as distinct from marriage.
A man and a woman can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.
The UK government, which is consulting on changing the status of civil ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to get married, wants to make the change by 2015.