Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in Scotland
2004: Civil partnerships introduced.
2013-JUN: SSM bill introduced
Same-sex marriages legalized.
2014-DEC-16 & 31: Law takes effect
In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."
The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.
Same-sex marriage elsewhere in the United Kingdom (UK) is discussed in a separate essay.
2013-JUN: Status of government recognition of committed same-sex relationships in Scotland:
Scotland forms the northern part of the United Kingdom (UK) which consists of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and many small islands.
Scotland has recently been granted limited self-government. According to Wikipedia:
"Certain executive and legislative powers have been devolved to, respectively, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh." 1
One of these powers is the definition of who is eligible to be married.
The UK's Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same-sex couples throughout the UK -- including Scotland -- to enter into civil partnerships. These resemble the civil unions and domestic partnerships found in the U.S. Couples in such partnerships are given most of the benefits, protections, and obligations of opposite-sex married couples. But civil partnerships are missing what is often considered the most important benefit: they are not called marriages.
Some of the more liberal and progressive religious groups in the UK favored making same-sex marriage available to same-sex couples. As a second-best scenario, these same groups would like to solemnize civil partnerships within their sanctuaries during a religious ritual. Curiously, the UK government decided to restrict the religious freedom and liberties of faith groups by prohibiting them from solemnizing civil partnership in a religious service. Same-sex marriages could only be done in a government office in a civil ceremony. However, same-sex marriage became possible in Scotland after a lengthy conflict.
Steps towards same-sex marriage in Scotland:
- 2010-JUN to OCT: A major public opinion survey showed that earlier negative beliefs about the LGBT community and same-sex marriage had largely dissipated.
- 2011-SEP to DEC: The government initiated a "consultation" with the public, to learn their opinion about making marriage available to same-sex couples. All of the major faith groups in Scotland seem to have negative opinions about SSM ranging from a refusal to discuss the topic, to being "strenuously opposed." A major gap is opening up between the beliefs of the general public, and the teachings by the leadership of the mainline and conservative faith groups. In contrast, some of the smaller faith groups, including the Scottish Unitarians, the Liberal Jewish Community, the Society of Friends -- a.k.a. the Quakers, -- the Metropolitan Community Church, the Buddhist Community of Interbeing, and the Pagan Federation all promoted SSM. They joined with the Scottish Youth Parliament to promote marriage equality.
Rabbi Mark Solomon said:
"Extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples will make Scotland a fairer, stronger and better country. ... [Many secular groups see faith groups as] "... inherently conservative and 'anti-' lots of things. If this [legislation] were not to get through because of strong religious opposition, it would reinforce that sense of many people in society that religion is simply there to squash freedom rather than to extend it."
- 2012-MAR: Roman Catholic Keith Cardinal O'Brien launched a strong attack on the concept of same-sex marriage which he likened to the legalization of human slavery. He drew on the millennia of teaching of conservative elements of Christianity into the very different roles that they expect women and men to follow. He concluded that:
"All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father; the evidence in favor of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal."
He may be referring to the many studies that compare families led by two parents with those led by a single parent. The latter often live in grinding poverty which, on average, causes poorer outcomes for children. With one notable exception, all or essentially all of the studies directly comparing families led by two opposite-sex parents with those led by two same-sex parents have shown the two types to be equivalent. The exception is the Regneurus study at the University of Texas which has been repudiated by that university's Department of Sociology. Its conclusions about children born and raised by same-sex parents is without merit because they were based on a sample size of two.
Cardinal O'Brien expressed concerns about the violation of human rights observed in countries where SSM has been legalized. Although he was not specific, he apparently refers to the occasional prosecution by human rights tribunals of companies and individuals in the marriage industry. These are often wedding photographers, wedding cake bakers, florists, renters of meeting halls where wedding receptions can be held, etc. Some owners of these companies occasionally refuse to provide a wedding service for same-sex couples because of their personal religious beliefs. They feel that to be forced to provide such goods and services is an infringement on their freedom of religious belief. This is not "religious freedom" in the traditional meaning of the term -- like freedom to believe, to assemble, to proselytize, etc. It is the emerging and growing meaning which is the religious freedom to denigrate oppress and discriminate against others -- same-sex couples in this case. This has caused a few companies to run afoul of human rights legislation in various states of the U.S. who require business who provide a service to the public to not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.
Responses to Cardinal O'Brien's attack were strongly worded, unambiguous, and sometimes brutal.
- 2012-SEP: The Scottish National Party (SNP) announced that it would introduce the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill (MCPB) to the Scottish Parliament during its 2012/2013 session to make available marriage to same-sex couples throughout Scotland.
- 2013-MAY: The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil MSP, said that the Government intends to introduce the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill before the summer recess which comes at the end of 2013-JUN.
- 2013-JUN-27: The Scottish Government published the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill which would achieve marriage equality in the country.
- 2014-FEB-04: The bill was passed, but same-sex couples will have to wait until December until the law becomes effective.
- 2014-DEC-16: The law came into effect. Same-sex couples in existing civil partnerships can now convert their partnerships to marriages. The first couple to upgrade their civil partnership were Douglas Pretsell and Peter Gloster who formalized their marriage in the British consulate in Sydney, Australia. Other same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses starting two weeks later on DEC-31.
Topics discussed in this section:
- Part 1: 2011: Current recognition of same-sex unions. A public "consultation" on same-sex marriage.
- Part 2: 2011: Support for, and opposition to, SSM by the public and religious groups.
- Part 3: 2011 & 2012: Support for/opposition to, SSM by the public and faith groups (Cont'd). Attack on SSM by Catholic Cardinal.
- Part 4: 2012-MAR: Responses to the Cardinal's attack. 2012-SEP: Gov. promises to introduce SSM bill.
- Part 5: 2013-JUN: The Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill is introduced. Responses from many sources.
- Part 6: 2014-FEB: Public opinion on SSM. The Marriage and Civil
(Scotland) Bill is debated
- Part 7: 2014-FEB-04: The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill becomes law.
Reactions. Will there be human rights conflicts?
- Part 8: 2014-DEC: More remarks from the passage of the marriage equality bill. Will there be human rights conflicts as a result of this law? 2014-DEC: Law came into effect in two stages.
Copyright © 2011 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2014-DEC-18
Author: B.A. Robinson