The Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to allow same sex couples to get married, through religious, belief and civil ceremonies. The Bill will also allow civil partnerships to be registered through religious and belief ceremonies and will make other changes to the law on marriage registration.
These other changes include, for example, allowing Church of Scotland deacons to marry opposite sex couples and formally establishing belief ceremonies as a third way of getting married in Scotland, in addition to religious and civil ceremonies. At the moment, belief ceremonies, carried out by celebrants such as humanists, are regarded as religious ceremonies for the purposes of marriage legislation.
The Bill follows the consultation carried out last year by the Government on same sex marriage and the religious registration of civil partnerships. There will be a further consultation later this year on a draft Bill. The Government is currently having structured discussions with key bodies on what protections may be required, in either statute or guidance, in areas such as freedom of speech, religion and education.
The Government recognises the need to protect religious bodies and celebrants. The Equality Act 2010 already has exemptions from equality requirements where these are necessary to comply with the doctrine of the religious body or to avoid conflict with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the followers of the religion or belief.
The Scottish Government considers that a further amendment to the 2010 Act is required. The aim is to protect individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body which has agreed to carry out same sex marriages. We are working with the UK Government to secure agreement to such an amendment before the formal introduction of a Bill to Parliament, with a view to it being in place before the legislation comes into force.