The next steps to Equal Marriage in Scotland
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill is a huge step forward towards marriage equality in Scotland. This page provides an outline of the next steps to securing the passing of the bill. It is vital that equal marriage supporters continue to support the bill, which you can do here.
We will do all we can, with our partners and with your help, to ensure that the bill becomes law as quickly as possible and with the most progressive detailed rules.
1) Pre-legislative Consultation (Complete)
The Equality Network launched the Equal Marriage campaign in 2008. Following three years of campaigning, four of the five parties now represented at Holyrood included an equal marriage commitment in their manifestos at the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2011.
In Autumn 2011, the Scottish Government held a public consultation on the principle of allowing same-sex marriage in Scotland. In July 2012 the Scottish Government published the results of this consultation and announced it would seek to legislate for same-sex marriage.
In December 2012 the Scottish Government published a draft version of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. This draft version was the subject of a second public consultation, which was held in Winter 2012/13. The results of the consultation were published in June 2013.
2) Bill introduced (Complete)
Following the consultation stage the Scottish Government made revisions to the draft legislation, and on 26 June 2013 the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament, beginning its journey to becoming law.
3) Stage One (Complete)
Committee evidence: At stage 1, the Bill is assigned to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration, in this case, the Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee.
In September and October, the Committee heard oral evidence from panels of witnesses including LGBT organisations, religious groups, lawyers and others, and the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary leading on the bill, Alex Neil. You can read the oral evidence here.
On November 8th the Committee published their stage 1 report on the bill. The report recommends that the Parliament approve the bill at stage 1. It also recommends adopting four of the five amendments proposed by the Equality Network / Scottish Transgender Alliance (and asks the Scottish Government for a detailed response on the fifth amendment).
Parliament vote: On November 20th, the whole Parliament debated the Committee’s report on the general principles of the bill. At the end of a three hour debate, MSPs voted to approve the general principles of the bill. The vote was 98 votes in favour of the bill, 15 against, and 5 abstentions. 9 MSPs were not present for the vote (one was stuck in a lift!) and most of them have previously indicated their support for the bill.
4) Stage Two (Complete)
Committee amendments: At stage 2, the Equal Opportunities Committee considers amendments (changes) to the bill. You can read about the amendments we think are needed here.
The first meeting of stage 2 was on December 19th. The Equal Opportunities Committee considered a range of amendments to sections 1 to 14 and schedule 1 of the bill. The Committee unanimously agreed two of the amendments we have been calling for: to allow the option of gender-neutral wording for marriage ceremonies, and to allow couples in foreign civil partnerships to marry in Scotland. The Committee also agreed some other relatively minor government amendments, and rejected amendments supported by the Scotland for Marriage campaign against marriage equality.
Day 2 of stage 2 was on January 16th, and was the final day of stage 2. The Equal Opportunities Committee unanimously agreed two more of the amendments that we have been calling for: to remove the spousal veto on gender recognition for married trans people, and to allow people who transitioned at least six years ago to get gender recognition with simpler evidence requirements. Again, other relatively minor government amendments were agreed, and the Committee rejected amendments supported by the Scotland for Marriage campaign against marriage equality.
The last of the amendments that we called for, to reduce the minimum age for gender recognition from 18 to 16, was ruled by the Parliamentary authorities as not admissible for this bill, which relates only to marriage and civil partnership. However, at the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee on 21st January, the Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, pledged that the government would seriously consider this issues and would consult and seek expert advice on it.
5) Stage Three (4th February)
The bill goes back to the whole Parliament for stage 3, a single afternoon of debate, on Tuesday 4th February. The Parliament will debate and vote on amendments to the bill between just after 2pm and around 5pm, and will then debate whether to pass the bill. At 6pm, the final vote on whether to pass the bill will be taken. If the Parliament agrees, the bill is passed, but if the Parliament does not agree the bill falls.
If the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill is passed there will be a four week period when the bill may be challenged by the Advocate General, the Lord Advocate or the Attorney General or by the Secretary of State for Scotland. This is unlikely, as it would normally only occur if a bill is deemed to be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament (i.e. not a devolved matter).
6) Royal Assent (Mar 2014?)
After the four week period has expired the Presiding Officer will submit the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill for Royal Assent. Once the bill receives Royal Assent it becomes the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.
7) Secondary legislation
Following Royal Assent the Scottish Government will draft regulations to enable the provisions of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act to be fully implemented. For instance, this could include drafting regulations to provide for the administrative procedure for changing a civil partnership to a marriage. There may be a public consultation on the regulations, and then they must be approved by the Parliament. Typically the process of drafting, consulting on, and approving regulations takes about 12 months, but we would hope that in this case we can press for it to be done quicker.
8) Equal Marriage in Scotland?
The first same-sex marriages in Scotland should therefore take place by early 2015 – a frustratingly long time away, but we will do all we can, with your help, to work for delays to be minimised.
Between now and then the Equality Network will also be doing all we can, at every stage, to ensure the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill is as progressive as possible for all LGBT people, and that it gets the strong majority in the Scottish Parliament that it deserves. You can read about the amendments we think the bill needs, here.
However, the campaign for full equal marriage will not be over when the bill comes into effect. However successful we are in pressing for improvements to the bill as it goes through the Parliament, there will be at least two issues still to be resolved:
- Mixed-sex civil partnership – the Scottish Equal Marriage campaign has always been for the opening of both marriage and civil partnership to couples regardless of gender. The bill does not open civil partnership to mixed-sex couples, but the Scottish Government is starting a review of this, and we will be encouraging people to participate in the review and press for legislation after the review.
- Pension equality – this issue is reserved to Westminster, so cannot be dealt with by the Scottish bill. The UK Government have promised to review the remaining discrimination against same-sex couples in private sector pension benefits. The review is due to finish by July 2014, and we will press for legislation to end the discrimination in the second half of 2014.