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Views sought on same sex marriage

02/09/2011

A consultation on same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships in Scotland has been published today.

The consultation sets out the Scottish Government's initial view. The Government tends towards the view that same sex marriage should be introduced but believes that faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same sex marriages.

During the 14 week consultation, Ministers and officials intend to meet key interested groups to discuss the consultation proposals, which include:

  • The introduction of same sex marriages
  • The introduction of religious ceremonies for civil partnerships
  • Ensuring religious organisations and celebrants do not have to register civil partnerships against their will.

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon, said:

"The recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that more than 60 per cent of people in Scotland felt that same sex marriage couples should have the right to marry, compared to 19 per cent who disagreed. The Scottish Government is committed to equality and diversity for all and that is why we pledged to come forward with a consultation on same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships.

"In publishing that consultation today, we are setting out our initial view. We tend towards the view that same sex marriage should be introduced. However, we are aware that for religious reasons, some faith groups and celebrants may not want to solemnise same sex marriages, and that is why we are making it clear that they should not be obliged to do so.

"Indeed, we recognise that there will be a range of views on the consultation proposals and we want to hear the views from all sections of Scottish society. In addition to carefully considering the written responses, we intend to meet a wide range of key organisations during the consultation period.

"Although the Government has set out its initial view, we give an absolute assurance that all views will be listened to. No final views have been reached and no decisions have been taken."

If, as a result of the consultation, the Government decides to legislate, there will be a further consultation on a draft Bill. A finalised Bill could then be introduced into the Scottish Parliament in 2013.

The closing date for responses is December 9, 2011. Responses should be sent to familylaw@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

The consultation asks if marriage in Scotland should be open to people of the same sex and through either a civil or religious ceremony, on the basis that a religious ceremony could only take place if the religious body and the religious celebrant were happy to carry it out.

Currently, same sex couples can obtain legal recognition of their relationship through entering into a civil partnership, which were established across the UK by the Civil Partnership Act 2004, passed by the Westminster Parliament. However, the actual registration of civil partnerships is a devolved matter.

Civil partnerships may not take place in religious premises and can only be registered by civil registrars. However there is nothing to stop a same sex couple receiving a religious blessing for their union. This has no legal effect but can provide a blessing to suit a couple's religious beliefs. It is up to religious organisations and their celebrants to decide whether they wish to offer such blessings.