We understand that the Scottish Government intends to introduce its Bill to allow same sex couples to get married within the next month. It will be an important step forward for the rights of same sex couples.
Same sex couples currently have the right to enter into civil partnerships which confer most of the same rights enjoyed by married couples. This new legislation will give same sex couples the right to get married and thereby remove an existing inequality in the law.
The Scottish Government announced in July last year that it intended to legislate to allow same-sex marriage, and launched a consultation exercise on its draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill in December 2012.
The consultation covered not only the introduction of same sex marriage but the detail of protections in relation to religious bodies and celebrants, freedom of speech and education.
The draft Bill contains a provision making it clear that the introduction of same sex marriage has no impact on existing rights to freedom of speech.
“We are introducing same sex marriage in Scotland because it is the right thing to do,” explained Health Secretary Alex Neil at the consultation launch. “We are striving to create a Scotland that is free, tolerant and fair and I am pleased to say there is support across the chamber for this significant step.”
“I am absolutely clear that this should not impact on religious freedom and no religious body will be compelled to solemnise same sex marriages. Religious bodies who wish to solemnise same sex marriage will have to opt in,” he explained. “Where a body does decide to solemnise same sex marriages, we will also protect individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.”
According to reports, Mr Neil has advised MSPs that the Bill will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament by the end of June.
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