Scotland’s gay marriage bill to come before Holyrood within a month

The Scottish government has confirmed it will introduce a bill within the month to allow same-sex marriage.

A consultation on the proposed Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill closed in March, but the responses have yet to be published.

Ministers promised to change the law, but also to protect the rights of religious groups who do not want to carry out such ceremonies.

The Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church are against the plans.

Once the legislative proposal is lodged at parliament it will undergo scrutiny before committee members and in the chamber.

From Democracy Live: Alex Neil updates MSPs on gay marriage

The government said the bill would also allow civil ceremonies to take place at a location other than a registrar’s office.

Alex Neil told MSPs that the bill would be introduced in the current parliamentary sessions.

Talks have been taking place with the UK Government because ministers at Holyrood believe an amendment is needed to UK equalities legislation to protect individual celebrants who may not want to conduct same-sex ceremonies even if their church, as an organisation, backs them.

Health secretary Mr Neil said “substantial progress” had been made on the issue in discussions with UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

The UK government’s plans to legalise gay marriage cleared the House of Commons last week.

– continue reading at  BBC News 

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Scottish government rules out same-sex marriage referendum

The Scottish government has ruled out a referendum on the proposed introduction of same-sex marriage.

On Monday, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, urged the Scottish government to hold a public vote on the proposals.

A government spokesman, speaking after a cabinet meeting, said the issue was a matter of conscience, not constitution.

He said a decision on whether to bring forward a bill on same-sex marriage would be made before the end of July.

Members of the cabinet met in Edinburgh to discuss the issue.

After the meeting, the spokesman said: “This is an important issue and it is right that cabinet takes the time to get both the principle and the detail of the decision right.

“During the discussion, recent calls for a referendum on the subject were carefully considered. However, cabinet views this as an issue of conscience not constitution.

“Given that if a bill is brought forward it should in the view of the Scottish government be determined by a free vote, cabinet has concluded that a referendum would not be appropriate.

“Cabinet has now asked a cabinet sub-committee, led by the deputy first minister, to further examine some particular issues of detail before a final decision is reached.

“We remain committed to publishing the consultation responses and our clear decision on the way forward before the end of this month.”

-more at BBC News 

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Scottish Cabinet Discussing Gay Marriage

The Scottish cabinet is expected to discuss plans to legislate for same-sex marriage when it meets later.

SNP ministers, who favour the move, are due to announce legislation this week in the wake of a consultation which resulted in 80,000 responses.

The proposals, which would see Scotland become the first part of the UK to introduce the policy, have provoked opposition from some religious groups.

The Catholic Church and Church of Scotland strongly oppose the policy.

Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.

The introduction of gay marriage has been backed by a “rainbow coalition” of organisations, including The Equality Network, Amnesty International, Unison and the Humanist Society of Scotland, as well as political parties.

Faith groups, including the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, Buddhists and the Pagan Federation also support the move

– BBC News.

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Cardinal Calls for Gay Marriage Referendum

THE Catholic Church will today intensify pressure on Alex Salmond over same-sex marriage by calling for a referendum on the proposals, before the First Minister’s flagship independence vote.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has attacked SNP plans.

The leader of Scotland’s Catholics, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has warned the First Minister that “far more people” are concerned about same-sex ceremonies than independence.

A spokesman for the Church told The Herald it wanted a public vote on the issue before a referendum on independence.

Ministers are expected to announce proposals for gay marriage after a Cabinet meeting tomorrow. They are under intense pressure from opponents, including campaign groups and churches. More than 27,000 people have signed a petition against the plans.

However, the First Minister is facing calls from many within his own party to press ahead with the proposals. At the weekend Jim Eadie, the SNP Edinburgh Southern MSP, said: “The message to the Scottish Government should be: ‘Stand firm, hold your nerve.'”

Muslim leaders and the Catholic Church have denounced the plans and accused Scottish ministers of offering “worthless” assurances over opt-outs.

Cardinal O’Brien, who has previously described the proposals as madness, specifically linked gay marriage and independence in a statement last night calling for a referendum.

He pointed out that almost 80,000 people responded to an official consultation on same-sex marriage while 26,000 have responded to the one on independence.

Cardinal O’Brien said: “The Scottish Government’s consultation on redefining marriage had three times more respondents than the consultation on the constitution, demonstrating clearly that far more people are concerned about fundamental matters of morality at the present time.

“Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial we have one on marriage. It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue. Let all those who have a view on this subject place their trust in the Scottish people and let Scotland decide.”

-full report at   Herald Scotland.

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Two-thirds of Scots in favour of same-sex marriage

A new poll has found two-thirds of people in Scotland are in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

Union campaign: Protesters at an earlier demonstration
in favour of gay marriage at the Scottish Parliament.

The number includes nearly half of those who identify with a religious faith, according to a survey commissioned by gay rights organisation Stonewall Scotland.

The YouGov poll of nearly 2000 people also found three in five people believe lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland suffer prejudice and five in six (83%) say the problem should be addressed.

The Scottish Government is expected to decide on July 10 whether to introduce same-sex marriage after considering the findings of a consultation that closed in December.

The government has already indicated it tends towards the view that same-sex marriage should be legal, although faith groups will not be obliged to conduct the ceremony.

Stonewall’s report finds that 66% blame religious attitudes for prejudice against gay people in Scotland, followed closely by a lack of acceptance in schools and workplaces, as well as parental attitudes.

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “We pride ourselves in being seen as a nation of tolerance and respect but this poll only highlights that for thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scots, the reality is very different.

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Charity claims majority of MSPs back same-sex marriage

An equality charity claims that a majority of MSPs have committed to voting in favour of same-sex marriage.

The Equality Network said 69 out of 129 MSPs at Holyrood have signed a pledge to back a change in the law.

Key Scottish government ministers such as Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Kenny MacAskill have indicated they will vote to give same-sex marriage equal legal status, according to the Equality Network.

The charity said the leaders of all the opposition parties, the majority of SNP and Labour MSPs, and all Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs will back a change in the law, too.

The Scottish government is due to publish the results of its same-sex marriage consultation this month.

If legislation is not forthcoming, the Equality Network has indicated that it will work to secure a Private Member’s Bill.

Tom French, from the charity, said: “With a clear majority of MSPs committed to voting for equal marriage the Scottish government should now lead the way by introducing full marriage equality; both civil and religious.”

If the government decides to legislate, there would be a further consultation on a draft Bill, and a finalised Bill could be introduced into the Scottish Parliament in 2013.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While we have expressed our initial view and with all of the opposition leaders at Holyrood supporting same-sex marriage, we have given an assurance that all opinions will be listened to, no final views have been reached, and therefore no decisions have been taken.”


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