New guide to marriage and civil partnership in Scotland

By agency reporter
December 24, 2014

A new guide to same-sex marriage and civil partnership in Scotland has been launched to mark the start of Scotland’s equal marriage law.

10,000 copies of the guide have been published by the Equality Network, Scotland’s national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality charity, to explain to same-sex couples how they can register a marriage or civil partnership in Scotland, and to inform LGBTI people about their rights and responsibilities under the new law.

The Equality Network anticipate that between 500 and 1000 same-sex couples will marry or register a civil partnership within the first year of the new law, and around 4-500 will marry or register a civil partnership every year thereafter. This will include many same-sex couples who are expected to travel from other countries to marry in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, who was instrumental in delivering equal marriage in Scotland has provided a special foreword to the guide emphasising the Scottish Government’s pride in the new law and its wider commitment to LGBTI equality and human rights.

In her foreword, the First Minister refers to Scotland’s equal marriage law as one of the most progressive in the world, and says, “2014 was a momentous year for equality in Scotland. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 passed with an overwhelming majority in the Scottish Parliament in February, and I am delighted that the first same-sex marriages will happen this year. As a Government, we are proud to have introduced one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world.

“The Scottish Government first consulted on allowing same-sex marriage in 2011. I am personally proud of my involvement, when Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, in leading this consultation which started the journey to marriage equality in Scotland.

“I believe that the love between a couple, regardless of their gender, sexuality, belief or background, is powerful and should be valued and recognised. This legislation sends a powerful message to the world about the kind of Scotland we seek to create and it is a clear indication of the Scottish Government’s commitment to equality. I wish all the very best to those couples who will now be able to enter into marriage.”

Tom French, Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator for the Equality Network, said; “While the law to allow same-sex marriage has now come into effect, we know that many same-sex couples are still unsure how to make use of it, and whether they are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as those in mixed-sex marriages. This guide to the new legislation will help ensure that LGBTI people know their rights and understand what this change in the law means for their individual circumstances. We are delighted that Scotland’s First Minister has sent out a strong message about the Scottish Government’s commitment to LGBTI equality by choosing to personally provide a foreword celebrating equal marriage. We would also like to say a huge thank you to BLM whose generous sponsorship has made this guide possible.”

The guide has been produced with generous sponsorship from BLM, the UK and Ireland’s leading risk and insurance law business. The firm has one of Scotland’s leading family law practices supporting clients through all legal issues affecting marriage, co-habitation, civil partnership and child related issues. BLM is committed to LGBTI equality and supporting equal marriage in Scotland.

Siobhan Kelly, partner and head of the family law team at BLM, who is based in Glasgow said; “As a firm, we have always been committed to supporting and promoting equality. BLM is delighted to sponsor the Equality Network’s comprehensive guide which will help people to navigate what is an historic and very much anticipated change in the law.”

The guide also contains a wedding directory of a range of civil, religious and belief celebrants who are approved to conduct same-sex marriages, and wedding venues and services providers who are keen to show their support and commitment to serving same-sex couples. These include: Humanist Society Scotland, the Unitarians, the Quakers, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Open Episcopal Church, the Pagan Federation (Scotland), One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, and Fuze Ceremonies. Other advertisers include City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council, Stirling Council, and a range of venues and other wedding service providers.

Under the Equality Act 2010 and the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 it is against the law for service providers in Scotland to discriminate against LGBT people or refuse to provide an equal service for same-sex marriages and civil partnerships as they would for mixed-sex marriages. It is also unlawful for local authority civil registration services to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages and civil partnerships, though religious and belief bodies can choose whether or not they voluntarily opt-in to conducting same-sex marriages.

In February, Scotland became the 17th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage after the Scottish Parliament passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 by an overwhelming 105 votes to 18, the third strongest majority for any same-sex marriage legislation in the world. The Act received Royal Assent in March and, after the necessary secondary legislation was passed, the Act came into effect at midnight on Tuesday 16 December. The first civil partnership to marriage conversions took place on 16 December and the first new wedding ceremonies will take place shortly after midnight on Hogmanay (31 December) following the usual 15 day notice period for marriages.

Scotland is one of a growing number of countries around the world that allow same-sex marriage, including the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Portugal (2008), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Argentina (2010), Iceland (2010), Denmark (2012), France (2013), New Zealand (2013), Uruguay (2013), Brazil (2013), England and Wales (2014), Luxembourg (from 2015), Finland (expected from 2016/17) and large parts of the USA and Mexico.

Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland. On Tuesday (16 December) the new Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (2014) was published showing record public support for same-sex marriage at 68 per cent, with just 17 per cent remaining opposed. This was an increase in support since the poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network in June 2012, which showed 64 per cent of Scots in favour of same-sex marriage, and 26 per cent opposed. Separate polls conducted over the past four years by Populus, YouGov, Angus Reid, and previous Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys, have all shown consistent growth in levels of support.

* The full guide (.PDF Adobe Acrobat document) can be found here: http://www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/emguide_final...

* Equality Trust: http://www.equality-network.org

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