SCOTLAND: Marriage Bill Published
The bill to legalise same sex marriages in Scotland has now been published, and while it has arrived later than hoped and expected, Holyrood will introduce a more open, flexible regime than the new equal marriage laws in England and Wales. The Scottish Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill, released on Thursday morning, will not introduce the stringent "quadruple lock" that English and Welsh religious bodies have won.According to the Equality Network, of the 128 members of the Scottish Parliament, 89 have endorsed same-sex marriage and only 11 have explicitly stated their opposition. The Guardian notes that while equal marriage is expected to go into effect for England and Wales by mid-2014, it will likely not come to Scotland until 2015. As for Northern Ireland, the Guardian observes, "hopes of same sex marriages are now dead."
The Westminster legislation explicitly bans the Anglican Church of England and Church in Wales from offering same sex ceremonies; the Scottish legislation has no such measure. It asks religious bodies and faiths to "opt in" to the new legislation, effectively making it the default position that religious bodies are not required to offer gay and lesbian ceremonies.
The Holyrood and Westminster measures offer very similar protections, however, for individual celebrants and ministers who are in churches and faith groups which have accepted same sex marriages but, on individual faith grounds, do not wish to officiate at them.