Scotland may take the lead on marriage equality

By staff writers
22 Jul 2010

A senior church figure and a cross-party political coalition is recommending a legal change in Scotland to give same-sex couples full marriage rights.

A poll of 1,000 Scottish adults conducted on behalf of the Scottish Green Party in April 2010 found that 58 per cent agreed that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, while 19 per cent disagreed.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2005. These provide the same legal rights as marriage.

However, they are not officially termed 'marriages' and civil partnerships may not be conducted on religious premises or by religious celebrants.

A move to give religious bodies who wish to include religious elements in same-sex civil partnerships the right to do so, while not compelling others, was made through an amendment to the Equality Bill. This was passed during the pre-election 'wash up' of last minute legislation, but is waiting implementation and does not apply in Scotland.

The Equal Marriage Campaign is now pushing for the Scottish executive to “lift the discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage” within Scotland.

The initiative is being backed by the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party, as well as individual SNP and Labour MSPs.

Campaigners, who include both Christians and non-believers, want religious and Humanist celebrants to have the freedom to officiate at same-sex marriages if they want to.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, told the Herald newspaper today (22 July 2010) that he is strongly supportive of the notion.

Holdsworth declared: “Anyone who can marry a couple currently should be able to marry same sex-couples. This is about justice for everyone. Civil partnerships have been a wonderful thing, but they are not equal; being separate isn’t being equal and the Government would be wise to move towards equality as soon as possible.”

The provost, who also heads up communications for the Episcopal Church (Anglican), went on to say that the argument that allowing gay marriage could threaten the institution of marriage, was “a silly idea”.

“I don’t think any gay couple have ever made a married couple feel less married,” he commented.

A similar verdict was reached by the former Anglican bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, during the debate following the previous Lambeth Conference.

The cause of marriage equality in the United Kingdom has been boosted by the Coalition Government’s decision to consult on a change in the law, and by comments by senior figures - including the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

This week the deputy Liberal Democrat leader, Simon Hughes MP, predicted that same-sex couples would have the right to civil marriage before the next General Election.

The religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, which backs reform, has suggested that the civil and religious aspects of weddings should be separated, freeing the state to offer marriage and partnership rights to all, and enabling various religious bodies to decide independently which relationships they wish to bless without preventing others from acting differently.

[Ekk/3]

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