Scotland Legalises Same-Sex Marriage
After a historic vote in Scottish Parliament at Holyrood on Tuesday, Scotland has now become the 17th country to vote in favour of a new bill, allowing same-sex couples to wed legally.
The bill was brought forward by the SNP after a consultation, when the government asks for the public’s input in a matter, which produced a record number of responses – 77,508 to be exact. In turn, this led to the matter being taken to Holyrood, where MSPs (Members of Scottish Parliament) voted with an overwhelming 105 votes to 18 in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.
The Church of Scotland and the Scottish Catholic Church were opposed to the bill, but ministers have said that no religious organisation will be forced into performing ceremonies there are actively against.
The Church of Scotland voted last year to allow men and women who were openly gay to become ministers, and although the church has said it is against homophobia, it has said it is acting on behalf of its congregations across Scotland, of which cannot agree on their opinions of same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, Buddhists, Quakers and the Pagan Federation have all supported the bill, campaigning in favour for same-sex marriage and agreeing to hold ceremonies on their premises.
“Today Scotland took a historic step towards the fairer society we all wish to see,” expressed Scottish Lib Dem Jim Hume. “The significance of this moment was captured perfectly by scores of people who came to parliament to show their support for equality in marriage.”
At the moment, same-sex couples in Scotland are allowed to enter into civil partnerships, which provides rights similar to those in marriage. However, for same-sex couples to be able to marry legally means they will have the same rights as opposite-sex couples when they marry, making the unions truly equal.
The move has obviously been backed by gay rights organisations, such as Stonewall Scotland and the Equality Network, as well as a range of other groups. “Today will be remembered in history as the day [same-sex couples] were finally granted legal equality in Scotland, and given the equal right to marry the person they love,” said Equality Network Policy Coordinator Tom French.
Other key measures in the bill mean that individual celebrants, i.e. those who would perform a wedding ceremony, who felt that doing so for a same-sex couple would go against their faith would not be forced to do so and would be protected from legal action citing discrimination. Scottish ministers also worked, with the UK government, to reach an agreement to amend the 2010 Equality Act to include this, so that celebrants in the rest of the UK also didn’t have to worry about legal action.
Religious and belief ceremonies were also being introduced for registering civil partnerships, guidance on teaching the issue in school will be amended, and same-sex marriages elsewhere in the UK and the world would be recognised in Scotland, as well.
“We’re doing a remarkable thing today,” said Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil, “we are saying on behalf of Scotland to the world … that we believe in recognising love between same sex couples as we do between opposite sex couples.”