July 25, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Today, the Scottish government announced its plans to pursue legislation legalizing marriage equality by the beginning of 2015, the BBC reports. The majority Scottish National Party (SNP), which leans left, had been expected to release plans for marriage legislation last week, but punted on the issue, saying the government needed more time to protect religious liberties for churches that wanted to opt out of offering marriages to gay and lesbian couples.
That move angered equality advocates, who pointed out that ministers had had seven months to pore over the government’s public consultation on the matter, which garnered 77,508 responses, the most in Scotland’s history. The Scottish government now plans to conduct another consultation on extra measures that citizens think should be taken in terms of freedoms of speech and conscience for those opposing marriage equality.
Speaking to the BBC, Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the following:
“We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships – we believe that this is the right thing to do.
“We are also mindful of the fact that the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament support same sex-marriage and that there is significant parliamentary support for legislation.”
“The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.
Sturgeon also pointed out that the SNP believes an amendment should be added to the UK Equality Act that would protect inidividual congregants who disagree with their church’s decision to recognize marriage equality.
The UK government is moving forward on its own plans to allow for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. That legislation should be complete by 2015, although current plans in Westminster would not allow for any houses of worship to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples outside of Scotland, should the SNP’s new legislation go through as expected.