The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil MSP, confirmed to the Scottish Parliament today that the equal marriage bill would be introduced in the Parliament by the end of June. He was answering a question from Marco Biagi MSP.
Marco asked when the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will be introduced in the Parliament, and Alex Neil confirmed that the Scottish Government intend to introduce it before the summer recess. That recess starts at the end of June, so we expect to see the bill in the last week of June.
Marco asked a follow up question about mixed sex civil partnership, which is not dealt with in the Scottish bill. He referred to the review of civil partnership in England and Wales promised last week by the UK Government. In reply, Alex Neil pointed out that that review will also look at some reserved issues such as civil partnership pensions, that would potentially apply to Scotland. He said that the Scottish Government are considering the issue of the review, and that he hoped to make an announcement on this fairly soon.
Drew Smith MSP asked a follow up question about when the first same sex marriages in Scotland would be available. Alex Neil said he hoped that the bill would become law sooner rather than later.
Dave Thompson MSP (an opponent of equal marriage) asked whether protections for religious freedom would be on the face of the bill. Alex Neil replied that mostly these will be done by amendments to the Equality Act, which is reserved, and so those would not be on the face of the Scottish Bill. He added that the Scottish Government would protect “the civil rights of those who do not wish to carry out a same-sex marriage”. Our understanding is that that is a reference to protecting religious groups and their marriage celebrants.