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15 December 2014   |    News

Equal Marriage now legal in Scotland

Scotland’s historic equal marriage legislation came into effect at midnight today.oz_edit_large

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 the Scottish Government has since been implementing the new law, including passing the necessary secondary legislation to bring it into effect.

From midnight today (Tuesday 16 December) same-sex couples will be able to give notice of their intention to marry and following the usual 15 day notice period the first same-sex marriage ceremonies will take place on Hogmanay (31 December).

However, Scotland’s first same-sex marriages will officially start today  as those couples in Scottish civil partnerships have the option to convert to marriage through a free administrative process at registration offices across Scotland and at certain UK embassies abroad. While those couples already in a foreign same-sex marriage will also now be recognised as married in Scotland, rather than recognised as being in a civil partnership as was previously the case.

Also from today married transgender people will no longer be forced to divorce the person they love before they are allowed to have the gender they live as recognised in law. Furthermore, because there is no ‘spousal veto’ on gender recognition in Scotland, the decision of a married trans person to get legal recognition of their gender will now be respected as their human right, and not a decision that can be blocked by a spouse.

The first couple to make use of the new law were Douglas Pretsell and Peter Gloster (pictured above), who converted their Scottish civil partnership to a Scottish marriage at the British Consulate in Melbourne, Australia, as soon as the law came into effect at one minute past midnight UK time (11.01am Australian Eastern Daylight Time) . Douglas, who is originally from Edinburgh, and Peter, from Melbourne, have been together for seven years and had their civil partnership in August 2010 at Fenton Tower in North Berwick, East Lothian.

Later today Scott and David Barclay will be the first of many couples to convert their civil partnership to marriage in Scotland. At their invitation, the Equality Network will be joining them, along with their family and friends, and Scottish Government Minister Marco Biagi MSP, to celebrate their marriage and to mark the start of the new law in Scotland.

Scotland’s Progressive Legislation

Scotland’s same-sex marriage legislation is widely considered to be one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world. The legislation differs from same-sex marriage law in England and Wales in a number of respects including that transgender rights are better protected in Scotland. For instance, there is no spousal veto on gender recognition in Scotland, and marriage ceremonies can be conducted using gender neutral language and forms.

Other differences include that any religious or belief body that opts-in to conducting same-sex marriages can be authorised to do so by the Registrar General, and no religious or belief body is banned from opting-in. This includes humanists who are not allowed to conduct marriages in England and Wales. Religious and belief organisations that have already been authorised to conduct same-sex marriages in Scotland include the Humanist Society Scotland, the Quakers, the Unitarians, the Liberal Jewish Community, the Pagan Federation (Scotland), the Metropolitan Community Church, Fuze Ceremonies, One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, and the Open Episcopal Church in Scotland.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage in Scotland brings to an end one part of the Equality Network’s seven-year-long Equal Marriage campaign, which was launched in 2008 as the UK’s first major campaign for same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnership. We will continue to push for civil partnership to be opened up to mixed-sex couples as it is in other countries, including the Netherlands and New Zealand. A June 2012 Ipsos MORI Scotland opinion poll for the Equality Network found that 71% of the Scottish public want civil partnership to be opened up to mixed-sex couples as well, and a Scottish Government consultation on mixed-sex civil partnership is expected in spring 2015.

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), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Argentina (2010), Iceland (2010), Portugal (2010), Denmark (2012), France (2013), New Zealand (2013), Uruguay (2013), Brazil (2013), England and Wales (2014), Luxembourg (from 2015), Finland (from 2016/17) and large parts of the USA and Mexico.

Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland. Today the new Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (2014) was published showing record public support for same-sex marriage at 68%, with just 17% remaining opposed: see our news story. A This was an increased in support since the poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network in June 2012, which showed  64% of Scots in favour of same-sex marriage, and 26% 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 Marriage and Civil Partnership Guide

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To mark the start of equal marriage we have published a new guide to marriage and civil partnership law for same-sex couples and LGBTI people in Scotland. A digital copy is available on our website and 10,000 printed copies will be distributed in January: https://www.equality-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/emguide_final1elores.pdf

The guide contains a Foreword from Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who did so much to make equal marriage happen, and provides all the information you need to know on how to register a marriage or civil partnership, and the rights and responsibilities that come with it. The guide also contains information on converting a civil partnership, the recognition that exists for foreign partnerships, and the impact of the new law on gender recognition for transgender people.

We would like to say a massive thank you to BLM, the UK and Irish law firm whose generous sponsorship made this guide possible, and to the many celebrants, venues and wedding service-providers who chose to show their backing for equal marriage by supporting the guide.


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