Scotland throws down equality gauntlet as it announces plans to allow same sex marriages

 

Scotland threw down the equality gauntlet today and announced plans to become the first jurisdiction in Britain to allow same sex marriages. It means that if the bill passes through the Scottish parliament unhindered gay couples would be able to legally wed as early as 2014.

The declaration provoked an angry reaction from Catholic, evangelical and Presbyterian groups but was warmly welcomed by equality campaigners and the small number of religious congregations who wish to preside over gay weddings.

Same sex couples from south of the border would be able to marry prompting speculation that Gretna Green’s historical reputation as a runaway wedding destination could undergo something of a 21 Century renaissance. It would be up to Westminster to decide whether such couples would be considered married or in civil partnerships once they return to England or Wales.

The decision to press ahead with same sex marriage legislation came after nearly 80,000 people responded to a government consultation on the issue – a record number of replies for Scotland.

“We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceeds with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships,” said Scotland’s  Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she announced the plans. “We believe this is the right thing to do.”

Scottish ministers stressed that any legislation would include significant new protections and “conscience clauses” for churches and individuals who object to gay marriage on theological grounds. Those wanting to conduct gay religious ceremonies would have to opt in and no congregation will be forced to do anything against its will.

The Government said it would also work with UK ministers to amend equality laws to protect civil celebrants from legal disciplinary action if they refused to carry our same sex marriages.

"The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today,” Ms Sturgeon insisted. “Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.”

Nonetheless the announcement provoked a scathing response from those Christian and Muslim communities who lobbied against the proposals.

“The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale,” said a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland. “We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships."

The Church of Scotland was more measured in its response but accused legislators of needlessly rushing ahead with legislation that many of its members found difficult.

"We are acutely aware that opinions differ among our own members and that many people are anxious and hurt in the current situation,” said Rev Alan Hamilton. "We believe homophobia to be sinful and we reaffirm our strong pastoral commitment to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs."

He added: "We are concerned the government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages."

Tim Hopkins, from the pro-gay marriage Equality Network, welcomed the decision. “It’s great news,” he said. “You might find Scotland suddenly gets lots of couples from England and American coming here to marry. Around a quarter of marriages in Scotland are already carried out by people with no geographical link to the area.”

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam