Guest post regarding gay marriage in Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament plans that churches and belief bodies would need to “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages, meaning that those fundamentally opposed in principal would not face possible law suits.
The Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church have already expressed their rejection of the idea of gay marriage and have welcomed the news that Scottish ministers are insisting no part of any religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in their places of worship.
The Scottish government’s consultation on the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill continues to run until 20 March but the recent passing of the Act in Westminster is putting pressure on the process to come to a similar conclusion.
With the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from offering same-sex marriages and other organisations having the option to ‘opt in’ to the practice of holding ceremonies, the Scottish government is expected to work with UK ministers to protect celebrants from legal action if they refuse to take part or speak out against same-sex ceremonies.
It is expected that popular law firms such as Co-Operative Legal Services will be inundated with enquiries as the Draft Bill continues its path to completion.
The plans currently under consultation have cross-party support in Scotland and the SNP in particular wants to avoid public or political backlashes of any kind in the run up to the Independence Referendum. Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil simply said: “We are introducing same-sex marriage in Scotland because it is the right thing to do.”
Mr Neil continued: “We are striving to create a Scotland that is free, tolerant and fair and I am pleased to say there is support across the chamber for this significant step.”
As it stands the Draft Bill will introduce measures such as allowing civil marriage ceremonies to take place anywhere other than religious premises and establishing belief ceremonies, such as humanist ceremonies, to stand alongside religious and civil events.
The cross party support for the ongoing consultations includes the Scottish Liberal Democrats, The Greens, the Scottish Labour Party and even The Conservatives, whose Ruth Davidson said: “I support the principle of equal marriage, but with the important proviso that religious organisations which do not wish to carry out the ceremony are not compelled to do so.”
The process of consultation around the Draft Bill continues against the background of a previous Scottish government consultation which received 77,508 replies, a record response. It is expected that gay marriage ceremonies could begin at the start of next year.