July 10, 2012
By Jacob Combs
In mid-June, I wrote a post here at P8TT asking the question, “Could Scotland be the next country to legalize marriage equality?” If recent events are any indication, it looks like the answer to that question is beginning to look more and more like a yes. This weekend, the Huffington Post UK reported that the Scottish government would release its plans for equal marriage rights by next week:
While the Westminster government’s plans for gay marriage appear stuck in a consultation which could delay a Bill being introduced to Parliament for months, the Scottish Government is expected to press ahead with its own gay marriage proposals either this week or early next week.
The SNP government has already conducted a consultation on gay marriage, far more speedily than the one now being mulled over at Westminster. Alex Salmond’s office will issue an “operational note” in the coming days outlining the timetable to bring gay marriage into law in Scotland.
The sticking point about marriage in the UK has largely been about allowing same-sex couples to wed in churches: Britain’s Home Office had previously been pursuing a strategy that would have allowed gay couples to wed in registry offices but not in houses of worship. Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has said that gay couples should be allowed to wed in churches provided those churches are willing to administer the ceremony. The Scottish government is aiming to provide religious marriages to gay couples.
As the Huffington Post UK explains, there are fewer procedural hurdles to passing marriage equality in Scotland, which could lend a hand to an easier passage there than in London:
The Scottish government also has the benefit of only having to put its laws through the single-chamber Scottish Parliament, where there appears to be a clear majority in favour of gay marriage. Contrast that with Westminster, where the government would face significant hurdles in getting any plans through the House of Lords.
The upper house in Westminster includes Church of England bishops as well as many peers who are socially conservative. Any Bill on gay marriage in London would likely face major delays in the Lords.
“I would be surprised if marriage equality were brought in in Scotland but not in the rest of the UK,” says Joe Fitzpatrick. “The UK’s going to have to catch up,” he says.
Also this week, gay rights advocates held a mock wedding outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood between two woman who are legally wed in South Africa. After the ceremony, the couple delivered a 10,000-signature petition to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in support of full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.