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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 06
Scotland approves marriage equality
Section One
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Scotland approves marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On February 4, the Scottish Parliament approved the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, allowing Gay and Lesbian couples to marry.

Although both the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church opposed the measure, the vote was a lopsided 105 to 18 in favor. Scotland's leading LGBT organizations, including the Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland, and a range of other human rights groups, pushed the legislation.

According to BBC News, the country's first same-sex weddings could begin this fall, 'October at the earliest.' Although it is part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has been internally self-governing since 1996. The British parliament approved marriage equality for England and Wales in 2013.

The Scottish government introduced the legislation after what they called a 'national consultation' in which they solicited comments from Scottish citizens. Some 78,000 people reportedly replied.

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said passing the bill marked 'a historic day in the history of the Scottish Parliament.' The leaders of the Scottish National Party, which dominates the country's parliament, supported the measure, as did the leaders of the opposition Labor and Conservative parties.

On the eve of the February 4 debate, Neil said all couples in Scotland should be given the same rights, regardless of gender.

'We have always maintained at the heart of this issue there is one simple fact: a marriage is about love,' he told Britain's Evening Telegraph. 'All couples in Scotland in a loving relationship must know that they have the same rights and responsibilities, and regardless of their gender, the same opportunity to get married.'

'We're doing a remarkable thing today,' Neil added during the debate, 'we are saying on behalf of Scotland to the world, loud and clear, that we believe in recognizing love between same sex couples as we do between opposite sex couples.'

The Green Party's Patrick Harvie, an openly Bisexual member of parliament, replied to the doomsday scenarios offered up by the religious opponents of the measure by explaining the 'real' consequences of the bill.

'Some couples who love each other will get married,' he said. 'Some confetti will be thrown, some cake will be eaten, occasionally an aunty will use the excuse to buy a new hat. And with a little bit of luck some of these people might live happily ever after.'

To placate religious opponents, the legislation includes a religious 'opt-in' clause - essentially the reverse of the American 'religious exemption.' In Scotland churches must specifically state that they will perform same-sex marriages. Individual clergy who decide to go against their denomination's wishes and perform same-sex marriages will be protected by law, however.

So far, the Quakers, who campaigned vigorously for the marriage bill, are the largest denomination to say they will perform marriage ceremonies for Gay and Lesbian couples. Other religious groups who backed the legislation include Unitarians, Buddhists, and pagans.

A report commissioned by the Church of England, which opposed both the British and Scottish bills, recommended that its priests be allowed to 'bless' same-sex couples, but not marry them.

Another provision of the law establishes 'belief ceremonies,' such as humanist ceremonies as a 'third form of marriage,' alongside religious and civil events.

A key provision of the bill allows Transgender people to stay married to their cisgender partners after they obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, the document officially changing their gender. They would previously have had to divorce.

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