A Bill to allow same sex couples to marry in Scotland has been published today.
The proposals offer protections for religious bodies, individual celebrants and the Bill also makes it clear that freedom of speech is unaffected.
Under the plans, religious bodies who wish to perform same sex marriage will have to opt in. If a body does decide to perform same sex marriages, protection will also be in place for individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.
It was also confirmed that a review will be undertaken on the Civil Partnership Act 2004 in Scotland, driven by the need to consider the position on opposite sex civil partnership.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said:
“This is a historic moment for Scotland and for equal rights in our country.
“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.
“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.”
Notes to editors
Should the Bill reach Royal Assent in early 2014, it is anticipated that the first same sex marriages will take place in 2015. It will take around 12 months to put the legislation in place.
Crown Office advice published today makes clear that criticism of same sex marriage is not in itself an offence, nor is the expression of religious views
Engagement with key education stakeholders on revising sexual health education guidance will begin in September to ensure it is kept up to date. Existing guidance makes it clear that parents and carers can, following discussions with the school and the local authority, withdraw their children from classes on sexual health education. This right will be retained. Revised guidance is expected to be in place by early 2014.
The Equality Act 2010 will be amended to further protect individual celebrants who do not wish to carry out same-sex marriages but belong to a religious body who has ‘opted-in’ to do so. The amendment will also protect any persons integral to the religious aspect of the ceremony and religious premises. A statement on the planned amendment to the Equality Act, as agreed with the UK Government, was published today and can be viewed at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Justice/law/17867/samesex/Equalityactstatement.
The amendment will be made through an Order under Section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998 at Westminster after the Bill is passed.
Audio clips available on audioboo through ScotGovHealth.