First Country in UK to Introduce Policy
The country that gave you Robert the Bruce and Rob Roy announced plans to become the first jurisdiction in Great Britain to allow same sex marriages .With no referendum, if the bill passes through the Scottish parliament without a hitch, gay couples would be able to legally wed by 2015. The Scottish government says that they are amending UK equalities laws to ensure that celebrants cannot be prosecuted by gay couples if they refuse to take part or speak out against same-sex ceremonies (protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion). The Scottish Parliament would bring in the change through a bill this year.
How This Came About
Nearly 80,000, a record number, responded to a government consultation on the gay marriage issue demonstrating a need for the legislation. As it stands now, same-sex couples in Scotland have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted that the religious community will not be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches. Such protection is provided for under existing laws.The Scottish government is going ahead with another consultation for extra measures to protect religious beliefs of teachers and parents in schools.
Unlike America, civil partnerships in Scotland offer the same legal treatment as marriage but aren’t regarded as marriages even though they offer marital benefits such as inheritance, life insurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights and pensions provision.
Who’s For It?
Major Scottish political parties are backing the measure. Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK backs legalizing same sex marriage. A “rainbow coalition “ of organizations including The Equality Network, Amnesty International, Unison, the Humanist Society of Scotland as well as the United Reform Church, the Quakers, Buddhists and the Pagan Federation support gay marriage.
“Confirms Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, “we are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships – we believe that this is the right thing to do.” (http://BBC News Scotland Politics, 25 July 2012)
Those Opposed, Say Nay
Two thirds of respondents oppose the change.
The proposals have provoked ire from religious groups such as The Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church. The Church of Scotland expressed discontent that the government was rushing ahead with its plans. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric labels the plans a “grotesque subversion of a universally-accepted human right.” The cardinal, who leads the church in Scotland, supports the Scotland For Marriage campaign against same-sex marriage. A Catholic Church spokesman believes “the Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.”
A former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson, fears that plans for same-sex marriage could alienate people considering voting for independence in the 2014 referendum.
The UK Government has also carried out a consultation on same-sex marriage, but has yet to publish the results. England and Wales, in their proposals, envision same-sex civil marriage ceremonies in a registry office or approved premises, with status quo for religious marriages. Before taking further steps, UK officials are waiting for results of the public consultation.