The Scottish government launched today their promised consultation on civil marriage equality for Scotland. At present, gay and lesbian couples are banned from marriage in the UK, but are able to get legal recognition through the Civil Partnership Act.

The initial view of the Scottish government is that civil marriage should be open to both same sex couples and opposite sex couples, a view “grounded in our commitment to equality, and our support for stable and committed relationships. Same sex couples, like opposite sex couples, can and do establish loving relationships which they wish to formalise in a manner recognised by the state, and in some cases by the religious body to which they belong.”

This view is shared by MSPs of all parties in the Scottish Parliament; as shown by the recent Parliamentary motion on equal marriage, proposed by John Mason and amended by Patrick Harvie.

“We very much welcome this consultation and the Scottish Government’s initial view in favour of introducing same-sex marriage,” said Tim Hopkins, director of the Edinburgh-based Equality Network (EN).

“We agree that no religious body or religious celebrant should be required to conduct same-sex marriages. Some religious bodies want to conduct same sex marriages, and they should be allowed to.

“The introduction of marriage equality in this term of the Scottish Parliament would add to Scotland’s reputation as a modern, fair and inclusive country.”

The Scottish Youth Parliament has already declared its support: “Two people who love each other should be able to get married; it’s as simple as that.”

A recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that more than 60% of people in Scotland believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry, compared with 19% who disagree.

No religious organisation in the UK can be compelled to register a marriage against their beliefs: there is no plan in Scotland or anywhere else in the UK to change the status quo which gives all religious organisations the right to decide for themselves whether a couple may be married in that faith, EN said this afternoon in a statement.

Religious organisations such as the Religious Society of Friends, the Unitarian Church, and Liberal Judaism, have said they would like the ban on celebrating marriage for same-sex couples lifted, as has the Humanist Society of Scotland.

A key benefit is that if Scotland should move to lift the ban on same sex marriage, then there would no longer be the inhumane requirement that a transgender person should have to get a divorce before obtaining the full gender recognition certificate. The marriage could just continue.

Scottish government ministers and officials have said they intend to meet key groups to discuss the proposals. Marriages registered in accordance with Scottish law are recognised in the rest of the UK: if the ban on same-sex marriage were lifted in Scotland ahead of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a same-sex couple married in Scotland a same-sex couple legally married in Scotland should be recognised as a married couple throughout the UK.

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