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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 8: More remarks about 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.

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This topic is continued from Part 7

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wedding ringsMore reactions to the bill's passage, posted by readers of an article in The Scotsman:

"HughOxford2" posted an personal eloquently written comment to the article in The Scotsman in opposition to marriage equality:

"The problem with "same-sex marriage" is not so much that it requires us to defy our conscience or religious beliefs, but that it demands we totally suspend our reason and judgment.

And this is the problem. As long as there are free, sentient people in Scotland, there will always be people who are capable of examining the evidence and thinking things through.

And they will ask themselves how an institution - marriage - whose specific, unique, distinguishing and distinct characteristic is that it recognizes the creation of new biological and sexual unions, uniting the two halves of humanity, that it is specifically about the recognition of gender difference and complementarity and all the vital things that flow from that, can at the same time be 'genderless' and unrelated to its distinct character. They will wonder how three completely different things can be contained in one paradigm.

And then they will realize that marriage is not legal or political at all. It is biological, anthropological and physical. The law has no purview over that physical reality - it's licit relationship to that reality is subordinate, to recognize it, not as a master to control it.

'Same-sex marriage' is not 'secular progress', it is ontological fraud, and at the heart of that fraud is a lie: not that all people should be treated equally under the law (they should), but that male and female are irrelevant and undesirable constructs to be abolished with the full force of the state.

As long as the law holds a factually incorrect legal definition of marriage, the state will be in conflict with at the very least a large section of society, especially those with an interest in the future, and a desire to live under just and reasonable laws.

The banal self-congratulation that we witnessed in the chamber last night, the vacuous platitudes and solipsistic self-congratulation, were really just the noise of a political class so divorced from reality that they are alienating the people they serve. It will not end well, and it will almost certainly end in the courts at the government's expense." 1

Finally, there was a brief comment by "Irritatingly Intelligent Chauvinist" who posted:

"I want to marry Flossy, my sheep. She's beautiful and I love her." 1

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Oppposition to SSM symbolWill human rights conflict result from this new law?

In North America -- both Canada and the United States -- there have occasionally been conflicts when laws were passed allowing same-sex couples to marry. They have been between a minority of clerks who issue marriage licenses and same-sex couples seeking such licenses.

Religious clerks are often trapped in a three-way bind. Consider:

  • Their oath of office which requires them to follow state or provincial laws, the state or provincial constitution, and the federal constitution. These clearly require the clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

  • Their fait, which is generally Christian. or another faith that values the Ethic of Reciprocity. This is commonly called the Golden Rule: to do onto others as they would have others do onto them. Just as a clerk would not like to be discriminated against when they personally apply for a marriage license, their faith's Golden Rule requires them to not discriminate against a same-sex couple who are seeking a license.

  • The interpretation that their faith group has given to their holy text. For Christians, this involves interpretation of approximately six passages in the Bible relating to same-gender sexual behavior. They are often called "clobber passages."
    • Liberal and progressive Christians generally interpret these passages as banning same-gender rape, men engaging in sex with other men in Pagan temples, men sexually abusing boys, people engaging in sexual behavior against their nature, etc. In the last case, the example described in the Bible involved heterosexual men and women engaging in same-gender sexual behavior. But it would seem to also condemn lesbians and gays engaging in opposite-sex behavior. In short, they find nothing in the Bible that condemns sexual behavior within a same-sex marriage.

    • Conservative Christians generally interpret the same approximately six passages in the Bible as all condemning same-gender sexual behavior.

After examining these three criteria, some clerks will decide to violate their oath of office and ignore the Golden Rule by discriminating against same-sex engaged couples. They often claim that their religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples supercedes government laws, constitutions, and the Golden Rule.

In some clerks' offices in North America, registrars have been able to work out a compromise in which another clerk in the office deals with all of the same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses. In other cases, they have decided that their only honorable option was to resign.

There may well be future conflicts in Scotland similar to those occasionally seen in U.S. county offices.

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2014-DEC: The marriage equality law comes into effect. Couples marry:

The law comes into effect in two stages, two weeks apart:

  • Starting on DEC-16, couples in an existing Scottish Civil Partnership were able to convert their relationship into a ordinary marriage with all its status, rights, privileges, and responsibilities.

  • On 2014--- DEC-31, New Years Eve -- which is called Hogmanay in Scotland -- engaged same-sex couples will be able to marry.

Douglas Pretsell, from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Peter Gloster, from Melbourne, Australia were probably the first couple in the world to convert their civil partnership into a marriage. They completed the paperwork in the British Consulate in Sydney, Australia. They have been together as a couple for seven years, and had confirmed their civil partnership during 2010-AUG. Sydney is 11 hours ahead of Scotland, so they had a bit of a head start.

The BBC reports:

"Mr Pretsell told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland program:

"It was kind of coincidental. we weren't originally intending to be the first at all. We sent an email to the consulate asking how long after the weddings came in that we would be able to change our certificate. We got an email back from them, asking if we would be able to come in at 11am on the 16th and saying we would probably be one of the first in the world." 2

They exchanged their civil partnership certificates at one minute past midnight, Scotland time, thereby becoming the first Scottish couple to upgrade their certificate to a marriage. Pretsell wrote in the Guardian:

"Sadly, the moment we stepped out of the British Consulate and on to the pavement of Melbourne’s Collins street, we were stripped of our married status. Consular offices are UK territory and once we had left the office and returned to Australia we were in a country that expressly does not recognise or respect our marriage at all. ..."

"... the present impasse over conscience votes in the federal parliament means that Liberal Democratic party Senator David Leyonhjelm’s equal marriage bill stands little chance of being introduced. At best, we are looking at several more years before there can be any change here. ..."

"In Australia, two-thirds of voters consistently support marriage equality. It is perplexing therefore that the political class in Canberra does not champion it -– especially given Abbott is suffering in the polls. Were they to support it, the UK experience suggests they would have little to lose and much to gain." 3

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Same-sex marriages will have become routine as of the end of 2014.

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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. Scott Macnab, "Same-sex marriage: MSPs pass gay marriage bill," The Scotsman, 2014-FEB-05, at:
  2. "Gay marriage law comes into effect in Scotland," BBC News, 2014-DEC-16, at:
  3. Douglas Pretsell, "We were the first same-sex Scottish marriage – until we left the consulate, and returned to Australia," The Guardian, 2014-DEC-23, 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 © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-FEB-05
Latest update: 2014-DEC-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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