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Scotland to press ahead with plans to legalise same-sex marriage

The Scottish government says it will try to amend UK law, so that celebrants who refuse to marry gays cannot be prosecuted.

If the legislation is approved by Scottish MPs, the first same-sex marriages in the country could take place by 2015.
If the legislation is approved by Scottish MPs, the first same-sex marriages in the country could take place by 2015.
Image: laverrue via Flickr

THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has published draft legislation which would legalise same-sex marriage in churches and civil ceremonies – though it will seek amendments to UK law so that celebrants who refuse to marry gay people on religious grounds cannot be prosecuted.

The Guardian said the draft proposals included “conscience clauses” allowing churches and individual clergy to opt against carrying out same-sex partnerships – though this will require a change to equality laws currently in force throughout the UK.

Instead, churches and celebrants who are happy to marry same-sex couples will be given the chance to declare their willingness to do so, and then have their names published on a public register.

The Daily Telegraph carried quotes from deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said she would work with the Home Office in London to seek the appropriate amendments to UK law.

It added that the move could prove unpopular among Scots – with almost two-thirds of the 62,000 responses to a recent government consultation asking it to drop the plans.

Sturgeon said, however, that the Scottish National Party – which governs alone in Holyrood – believed legislating for full marriage equality was “the right thing to do”.

The party is to give its MPs a free vote on whether to support the legislation, but the Guardian said a majority of the party’s backbenchers supported the proposals, as did the leaders of the other major parties in the assembly.

Sturgeon said the government recognised and respected the concerns that some Scots would have over the plans, which was why it would also try to to legislate for freedom of expression and freedom of religion in parallel with the gay marriage plans.

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This would ensure that people who opposed same-sex marriage on religious grounds would still be free to lobby against them from the pulpit.

If the plans are adopted, it is expected that the first same-sex marriages could take place in 2015.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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