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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages (SSM) in Scotland

Part 5: 2013-JUN: The Marriage and
Civil Partnerships Bill
is introduced.
Responses from many sources.

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Continued from Part 4 of this topic

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2013-JUN-27: Scottish Government introduces bill to legalize same-sex marriages:

When passed, the bill would create legislation similar to that introduced by the similar bill already passed by the British Government. One difference is that in Scotland, Humanist and other secular celebrants would be able to legally solemnize the weddings of opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Amendments had been proposed to the bill for England and Wales, but were defeated.

The Scottish bill is called "The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. 1 As introduced, it proposed:

  • A mechanism to change civil partnerships into marriages.

  • Allowing the Church of Scotland deacons to solemnize opposite-sex marriages.

  • Allowing civil marriages to be solemnized in other than a religious setting, if agreeable to both the couple and registrar.

  • Allow civil partnerships to be registered in a religious ceremony.

  • Allowing a transgender married person to remain married when obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate to officially change their gender. (Currently, they must first divorce their spouse and then convert their marriages to a civil partnership).

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Responses to the bill being introduced:

  • Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:

    "After many years of campaigning for equal marriage we are delighted that the bill has today started its journey into law. We hope that our MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament] will stand by the values of equality and social justice that the Scottish Parliament was founded on and vote to pass this bill with the strong majority it deserves. Thirty-three years ago Scotland finally decriminalized homosexuality, today the large majority of Scots agree that it’s time LGBT people were granted full equality under the law. By passing equal marriage legislation our MSPs will not only be giving same-sex couples an equal right to celebrate their love through marriage, they will also be sending out a message to the world about the kind of fair and progressive country Scotland wants to be." 2

  • Scotland for Marriage is a group trying to prevent same-sex couples from every being able to marry. Their web site stresses a number of points which they believe to be true:
    • Opposite-sex marriage is the best environment for raising children.
    • It is possible to respect the rights of others while opposing marriage equality.
    • If marriage is redefined to allow SSM, then the legalization of polygamy may be next.
    • People shouldn’t be penalised just because they oppose SSM. "People's careers shouldn’t be damaged, foster parents shouldn’t be turned away, and religious adoption agencies shouldn’t be closed down ..."
    • "The Scottish Government did not invent marriage, and it does not have the moral authority to redefine it."
    • SSM should not be imposed by the government. It should be decided by the voters in a referendum.
    • They raised a petition to the government, open to all ages. It states:

      "We signatories to this petition are in favour of retaining the current legal definition which has served Scotland well for centuries. We are opposed to redefining marriage in Scotland and we call for a referendum on this issue.

      Marriage is the union of one man to one woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others. It is the best environment for raising children. We note that homosexual couples already have full legal rights available through civil partnerships.

      We are deeply concerned about the implications for what will be taught in schools if marriage is redefined. We are also concerned that the definition of marriage may be rewritten further so that, for example, polygamy may be legalised at some future point.

      Our chief concern is for the general welfare of the people of Scotland. In addition, we do not wish to see the rights of conscience eroded for those who disagree with homosexual marriage.

      Employees should not face discrimination at work because they support traditional marriage, neither should parents be criticised by schools for refusing to allow their children to take part in lessons which promote same-sex marriage. Organisations and people of all religious traditions must retain their freedom to speak and act according to their religious beliefs.

      By the time that the bill became law, on 2014-FEB-04, 54,036 Scots had signed the petition. This represents slightly more than 1% of the total population of Scotland. 3

Scotland for Marriage announced plans to try to convince Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to defeat the bill. They also plan to urge constituents to lobby politicians and demonstrate outside their offices. A spokesperson said:

"We can guarantee, we will not be going away. We will take our fight to the ordinary people of Scotland in cities, towns and villages across the country."

  • Health Secretary Alex Neil said the introduction of the bill marked a:

    "... historic moment for Scotland and for equal rights in our country."

When interviewed on Radio Scotland Neil said:

"We are striving to create a Scotland that is fairer and more tolerant, where everyone is treated equally. That is why we believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this bill."

Referring to clauses in the bill that would allow conservative clergy, congregations and denominations to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them, he said:

"At the same time, we also want to protect freedom of speech and religion, and that's what the bill sets out to do. That is why it will be up to the religious body or individual celebrant to decide if they want to perform same sex marriages and there will be no obligation to opt in." 2

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This topic continues in Part 6

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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. Text of the " 'Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill' as introduced," at: This is a PDF file.
  2. "Bill published to make same-sex marriage legal in Scotland," Pink News, 2013-JUN-27, at:
  3. Home page, Scotland for Marriage, undated, 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 © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-MAR-08
Latest update: 2014-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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