Gay marriage bill published in Scotland

Scottish Parliament debating chamberThe Scottish government has published a bill would legalise gay marriage north of the border.

The draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill  would also allow civil partnerships to take place away from registrars’ offices.

The bill will now proceed through the Holyrood parliament for voting and scrutiny by Scottish MPs. If passed, it will not come into force before 2015.

First Minister Alex Salmond has promised a free vote on the bill, the BBC reports. Meanwhile Health Secretary Alex Neil hailed the bill as an  “historic moment for Scotland and for equal rights in our country”.

Speaking on BBC radio show Good Morning Scotland, the Minister for Health and Wellbeing stressed that the bill would contain legal protection for individuals and groups opposed to gay marriage, even if their church officially supported such unions.

Mr Neil told told listeners:

“We are striving to create a Scotland that is fairer and more tolerant, where everyone is treated equally. That is why we believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this bill.”

He added:

“At the same time, we also want to protect freedom of speech and religion, and that’s what the bill sets out to do. That is why it will be up to the religious body or individual celebrant to decide if they want to perform same sex marriages and there will be no obligation to opt in.”

The Scottish government published a consultation on the bill in December last year.

Photo of the Scottish Parliament debating chamber by Lewis Martin via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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