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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in Scotland

Part 1: 2011: Current recognition of same-sex
unions. Public "consultation" on same-sex marriage

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage,
We prefer this term to "gay marriage" because it is more inclusive.
Most loving committed same-sex couples consist of two men or two women.
However, a minority consist of a gay or lesbian plus a bisexual, or even two bisexuals.

LGBT is an acronym that refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.

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2011: Current status of local government in Scotland and committed same-sex unions:

The UK's Civil Partnership Act 2004 established a system of civil partnerships across the United Kingdom, including Scotland. It allows loving, committed same-sex couples to obtain a form of legal recognition of their relationship. 2 To be eligible to enter a civil partnership, both individuals must be 16 years-of-age or older, of the same sex, not too closely related genetically, capable of understanding the nature of the partnership, able to consent validly, and not already married or registered. Curiously, the law prohibits partnerships to be solemnized in religious buildings; they can only be registered by civil registrars. However, the couple's union can be registered in a civil ceremony and later blessed in a religious ceremony if they wish and if the  religious group is willing.

The number of marriages in Scotland have been in slow decline, even as the population increases. During 2009 and 2010 they averaged about 28,000 annually. As expected, there was a major surge in civil partnerships after they were first introduced in 2005. The numbers have decreased gradually, and now appear to be stabilized between 450 and 500 per year -- about 2% of the total number of marriages. Many same-sex couples may be holding off on entering civil partnerships, while waiting for actual marriage to be made available.

Registered couples receive almost all the responsibilities and rights of married couples, except for what is perhaps the most important right of all: to call their relationship a marriage that is registered as such with the government. Each is called a"civil partner," not "spouse," "husband," or "wife."

"Separate but equal" arrangements -- whether education in the American south, or civil unions, domestic partnerships, civil partnerships in some other states and countries -- always seem to be unequal in practice. Much of the public view civil partnerships as inferior to marriages -- a form of marriage-lite. This is easily proven: one merely has to ask a group of married couples whether they would be willing to trade in their marriage for a civil partnership.

In addition:

  • The couple is not able to solemnize their partnership in a religious service. This is viewed as a serious restriction on religious freedom by those faith groups who want to treat loving committed opposite-sex and same-sex couples equally. It is seen as an infringement on their religious freedom by many same-sex couples as well.

  • Curiously, the law is written so that adultery by the respondent is not sufficient proof that the relationship has irretrievably broken down, as it is considered with marriages.

  • There are some minor additional special privileges that are given to married couples but not to civil partners.

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Next steps towards marriage equality:

The Scottish Government (Riaghaltas na h-Alba) has initiated a "consultation" with the public. It will run until 2011-DEC-09. 3

According to the Anglican Journal:

"Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's Deputy First Minister, said the government '[tends] towards the view that religious ceremonies for civil partnerships should no longer be prohibited and that same sex marriage should be introduced so that same sex couples have the option of getting married if that is how they wish to demonstrate their commitment to one another." 4

On 2011-SEP-02, the government placed a section on their web site that thoroughly describes their legislative options about revising registered partnerships and giving access to marriage by same-sex couples. They have distributed material to over 100 organizations and individuals in Scotland who have an interest in SSM, including:

  • Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Sikh, and Unitarian religious groups,
  • Legal, police, human rights, LGBT positive organizations, and other non-profit groups, and
  • Legislators and political parties.

The government encourages feedback, and provides a form to facilitate response on their web site. 5 It includes nine questions on revisions to the existing civil partnership legislation, and ten relating to the expansion of marriage to include same-sex couples. Respondents can answer Yes, No, or Don't know to most questions. They are encouraged to add comments.

Questions on SSM are listed below:

  • 10: Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same sex marriage?

  • 11: Do you agree that religious bodies and celebrants should not be required to solemnize same sex marriage?

  • 12: Do you agree with the introduction of same-sex civil marriage only?

  • 13: Do you agree with the introduction of same-sex marriage, both religious and civil?

  • 14: Do you agree that religious bodies should not be required to solemnize same sex marriage?

  • 15: Do you consider that religious celebrants should not be allowed to solemnize same sex marriages if their religious body has decided against solemnizing same sex marriage?

  • 16: Do you agree that individual religious celebrants should not be required to solemnize same sex marriage?

  • 17: Which of the options do you favor to ensure that religious bodies and celebrants do not have to solemnize same sex marriage against their will? Answers are:
    • Option 1: Celebrants who are currently authorized to solemnize marriages would be automatically able to solemnize same-sex marriages also. Neither celebrants nor religious bodies would be required to solemnize SSMs if they didn't want to.

    • Option 2: A new system would be set up in which those religious bodies who wanted to solemnize SSMs would provide the government with a list of celebrants. The Equality Act passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2010 gives special permission to religious organizations and clergy that permits them to legally discriminate in the provision of marriage ceremonies without violating the law.

    • Neither

    • Don't know.

  • 18: Religious bodies may not wish their premises to be used to solemnize same sex marriage. Do you agree that no legislative provision is required to ensure religious premises cannot be used against the wishes of the relevant religious body?

  • 19: If Scotland should introduce same-sex marriage, do you consider that civil partnerships should remain available?

  • 20: Do you have any other comments?

The consultation process depends upon individual respondents to be sufficiently motivated to fill out the form and send it to the government. This makes it likely that the only persons participating will be those who have a significant interest in the topic.

  • Many of these will be religious and social conservatives who view SSM as a threat to opposite-sex marriage and something to be strongly opposed. They fear that if all loving, committed couples are allowed to marry that the institution of marriage will be permanently devalued.

  • Other probable participants are same-sex couples and single LGBT persons who are interested in becoming married now or in the future, and/or are concerned about ending the special rights currently enjoyed only by opposite-sex couples.

  • Finally, there will be some participants who are motivated by human rights concerns who will favor SSM.

People who don't really care will probably not take the time to respond. Since religious and social conservatives who are opposed to SSM vastly outnumber the LGBT community and human rights activists, one can expect the consultation to produce mainly responses that are opposed to SSM.

The most common way of sampling public opinion is through a telephone survey in which respondents are contacted directly. This has the benefit of including a random selection of adults in the country, whether they care intensely about the topic or not. However, it normally has the disadvantage of not allowing the respondents to volunteer their comments on the questions asked.

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Continued in Part 2 of this topic

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Scotland," Wikipedia, as on 2011-SEP-27, at:
  2. "The Registration of Civil Partnerships Same Sex Marriage - A Consultation: Chapter 2: Civil Partnerships," The Scottish Government, 2011-SEP-05, at:
  3. "The Scottish Government consultation process," The Scottish Government, 2011-SEP-05, at:
  4. Trevor Grundy, "Scotland's gay marriage consultation stirs debate," Anglican Journal, 2011-SEP-26, at:
  5. "Annex E: Respondent information form," The Scottish Government, 2011-SEP-02, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > Scotland > here

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > Scotland > here

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-SEP-27
Latest update: 2011-OCT-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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