Consultation on same-sex marriage ends soon

18 November 2011

The Scottish Government have put forward a number of proposals that would allow same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership to be introduced. The consultation period for the proposals ends soon, on the 9th of December 2011.

Currently, same-sex couples can only legally register a civil partnership in a non-religious ceremony, although they are able to have a religious blessing, but this has no legal effect. Conversely, mixed-sex couples may have a religious or civil marriage, but cannot register as civil partners. The Scottish Government wants to remove this disparity by allowing same-sex couples to register their partnership in a religious ceremony, and on religious premises should they wish. Religious celebrants would also be able to conduct a ceremony outwith religious premises under the proposals. However, they have stated they would not compel any celebrant to perform a same-sex ceremony, presumably due to the controversy this could cause within some religious bodies that are vocally against any form of partnership between two people of the same gender. It is thought that some religious bodies will leave the choice to the individual celebrant.
Civil partnerships have been legal across the UK since 2004. Since that time, 46,622 partnerships have been formed up to the end of 2010.
The Scottish Government has highlighted how the difference in the two situations can lead to a perceived inequality between marriage and civil partnership, with the latter being seen as a ‘lesser’ form of legal union; even the term ‘partner’ may not have the same resonance as ‘husband’, ‘wife’ or ‘spouse’. It has also highlighted that a lack of comprehension as to what a civil partnership is may be a barrier to obtaining goods and services.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘We tend towards the view that religious ceremonies for civil partnerships should no longer be prohibited and that same sex marriage should be introduced so that same sex couples have the option of getting married if that is how they wish to demonstrate their commitment to each other. We also believe that no religious body or its celebrants should be required to carry out same sex marriages or civil partnership ceremonies.’
The Scottish Government opened these proposals for consultation in September, and is seeking the views of anyone who has an interest in the subject. Responses should be sent to before the close of consultation on the 9th of December 2011.

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