The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 26th June 2013, following almost two years of consultation. On 20th November, the Parliament approved the general principles of the bill by a vote of 98 for, 15 against and 5 abstentions. The bill completed stage 2 (the Committee amendment stage) on 16th January, and will have its final debate, stage 3, on 4th February.
What does the bill do?
The main effects of the bill include:
- Introduction of same-sex marriage, available in a civil ceremony, or in a religious/belief ceremony by an organisation that chooses to conduct same-sex marriages.
- Introduction of religious/belief civil partnership ceremonies, by organisations that choose to conduct them.
- Allowing trans people who married or registered a civil partnership in Scotland to get gender recognition without divorcing, or dissolving their civil partnership.
You can read more detail of what the bill does here.
Does the bill create full marriage equality?
If the bill passes, it will be a very big step forward for equality in Scotland. But the version of the bill introduced in the Parliament would not create complete marriage equality. We believe that the bill could be improved in a number of ways – see our analysis here. Four of these changes were made at stage 2 of the bill, while one was ruled by the Parliamentary authorities as not within the scope of the bill. More details are here.
What can you do to help improve the bill and ensure it passes?
There is well-funded and organised opposition to this bill from some conservative religious organisations and the “Scotland for Marriage” campaign. They are trying to stop the bill, or to amend it to allow a wide range of organisations, including registrars and schools for example, to opt out of equality requirements and discriminate against LGBT people. We cannot afford to be complacent and assume that the bill will pass without these amendments.
It is vital that everyone who supports equality takes action to support the bill, and there is a list of things you can do here.
What happens next with the bill?
The Scottish Parliament will continue to consider the bill until 4th February 2014. You can read more detail of the timetable here.
How does the bill compare to the England and Wales legislation?
The bill is similar in effect to the legislation for England and Wales, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which was passed by the Westminster Parliament in July 2013, and is likely to come into effect in the first half of 2014. However, because Scots marriage law is very different, the contents of the bill are very different from the England & Wales Act, and some of the detailed effects are different as well. Some of the differences are things that we have pressed for, so we’re pleased with them!