Next steps to Equal Marriage in Scotland
This briefing provides an outline of the next steps to securing equal marriage in Scotland. It is vital that equal marriage supporters continue to lobby their MSPs and the party leaders between now and the final vote on the bill by visiting: http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/itstime
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 September 2012 the Scottish Government outlined the timetable for introducing a bill, and in December it 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 27 June 2013 the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament, beginning its journey to becoming law.
3) Stage One (Current stage)
Committee evidence: (Jun – Nov 2013?) The bill is currently at Stage One of the legislative process. This means that the Bill has been assigned to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was assigned to the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee.
In June, the Committee issued a call for written evidence, meaning that groups and individuals are able to submit evidence outlining their views on the detail of the bill by the deadline of 23 August 2013. The committee will then consider this evidence and, when the Scottish Parliament reconvenes in September, the committee will invite key witnesses to give oral evidence about the bill, and to highlight possible difficulties or recommend changes (amendments).
Once the committee has considered the evidence it will produce a Stage One Report, which will include its assessment of the Bill and whether or not it thinks the Bill should proceed.
Parliament vote: (Nov 2013?) The Scottish Parliament will then consider the committee’s report on the general principles of the bill. The whole Parliament votes on whether the bill should proceed, taking the committee’s report into account. If the Parliament agrees then the bill will proceed to Stage Two, but if Parliament does not agree then the bill will fall.
4) Stage Two (Dec – Jan 2013?)
Committee amendments: The bill will then go back to the Equal Opportunities Committee for a more detailed “line-by-line” scrutiny. Amendments (changes) to the bill are likely to be made by the committee at this stage.
5) Stage Three (Mar 2014?)
The bill then goes back to the whole parliament for further consideration and amendments. The Parliament then votes on the bill. 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 (Apr 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 an Act of the Scottish Parliament.
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.
8) Equal Marriage in Scotland!
The first same-sex marriages in Scotland should take place by Early 2015!
Between now and then the Equality Network will 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.