Scotland plans to introduce legislation that allows for gay marriages in both civil and religious ceremonies. The bill will allow for couples to be married in religious ceremonies, given that the religious leaders in the specific church agree to perform the ceremony.
Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister in Scotland, who is heading the new equality measures, told the Guardian:
We believe that in a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, as we do in Scotland, then this is the right thing to do…
However, we recognise and respect the concerns that some have expressed, in particular the concerns that have been expressed by the churches. We are determined that the legislation which is brought forward will include protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Many religious leaders, including members of the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland, have resisted the new legislation. Sturgeon addressed the fears of many religious leaders who worry that celebrants could be prosecuted under the new law for discrimination if they refuse to perform ceremonies.
This seems like an unlikely occurrence. Sturgeon has emphasized that no religious body will be forced into performing the marriages but that it would give protection to individual celebrants to perform the ceremonies. These celebrants would sign on to a public register that reflected their alliance with the government’s new law.
The Telegraph reports that a recent study showed that 64 percent of Scottish respondents opposed the new measure. Conversely, the deputy first minister argues that another detailed poll conducted via the government’s website shows that about 65 percent of people in Scotland support marriage equality.
Under the new proposals, gay marriages could be conducted by 2015, the BBC reports. The larger whole of Great Britain has not been able to pass legislation that would legalize gay marriage for residents, but Scotland’s Parliament is able to pass laws independently from England. Many British clergy have expressed distress over the Anglican Church’s stance on gay marriage in recent debates.
Dr. Jeffrey John of the Church of England condemned the church’s stance on gay marriage and equal rights, stating for Out4Marriage:
If you are gay, then please understand that God made you as you are, and loves you as you are, and if you invite Him into your relationship, then of course He will bless you and sustain your love just as much as He blesses and sustains any other marriage.
The debate has riven church and governmental officials. The new legislation would guarantee that Catholic schools would decide the curriculum surrounding marriage and sexuality education, the BBC reports.
Nicola Sturgeon has not backed down, even in the face of the religious resistance. She concluded in her statements this week, “We are determined that the legislation which is brought forward will include protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
Photo Credit: Stefano Bolognini