Thursday, July 26, 2012

Scotland Plans To Enact Marriage Equality By 2015

The Government of Scotland has announced that it intends to enact marriage equality legislation in the near future. After a careful analysis of the issues, the government concluded that the public policy change was the correct course of action.

The Scottish government conducted a "consultation" whereby they ask the public to provide them feedback and input on the proposed policy.

The BBC summarizes the consultation results:

  • The Scottish government held a public consultation into the issue of same-sex marriage.
  • It had the biggest response of any Scottish government consultation.
  • There were 77,508 responses in total, with 14,779 from outside Scotland.
  • Some 64% of those who responded [including postcard and petition responses] said they were against same-sex marriage.
  • Excluding postcard and petition responses to the consultation from within Scotland the outcome shows 65% were in favour and 35% against.
The reason for the extended timeline that would result in a law going into effect on January 1, 2015 is that is roughly the time which similar legislation in England and Wales would go into effect, according to the United Kingdom government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron.
In Scotland (and  the rest of the UK, i.e. England, Wales and Northern Ireland) same-sex couples currently have the option to enter in civil registered partnerships, which are what we would call civil unions (or comprehensive domestic partnerships) which provide "all the legal rights and responsibilities" of marriage except for the word. Civil partnerships do not generally have a religious component like marriages do and this has been a key sticking point.

The Scottish government is resolving this last question in favor of allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in churches, but the religious organization can opt out, and can not be forced to conduct a marriage ceremony against its will.
The Scottish government said;
  • it would work with UK ministers to amend equality laws to protect celebrants from legal or disciplinary action if they refuse to take part or speak out against same-sex ceremonies.
  • a bill would be brought forward to the Scottish Parliament later this year to bring in the change.
Scotland's deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: "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. 
She went on: "The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws. 
"However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same-sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act."
The heterosexual supremacists know they have lost this battle, so now it is turning into a war of attrition of delay and dismay.

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