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Topics In the News
 
Scotland's Parliament Approves Marriage Equality in Overwhelming Vote
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/04/14
Last updated on: 02/04/14
 
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After a debate of more than three hours in which a number of "wrecking" amendments were decisively rejected, Scotland's Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality. On its third and final reading, the bill was approved on a vote of 105 to 18. Same-sex marriages may begin as early as the end of July.

As Joe Morgan reports in Gay Star News, the announcement of the vote was greeted by a standing ovation from the audience in the gallery.

The legislation, which was brought forward by the ruling Scottish National Party, was broadly supported by the opposition parties as well. The government's bill followed a consultation, which produced a record 77,508 responses.

Although it was opposed by Scotland's two largest religious organizations--the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland--the marriage bill was supported by other religious groups, including the Unitarians and the Quakers. The bill allows religious bodies to "opt in" to perform same-sex unions if they choose to do so, while permitting individual celebrants to refuse to perform marriages. In addition, the bill allows Humanist ceremonies as well as civil ceremonies.

The bill also contains a number of provisions assuring equal rights to marriage for transgender and intersex people.

Most of the amendments advanced by opponents of same-sex marriage were designed to offer special protection to religious groups and individuals opposed to marriage equality. In rejecting them, supporters of the bill said that religious organizations and opponents of equal rights were sufficiently protected by the bill itself and other legislation that guarantees freedom of expression.

Two openly gay members of the Parliament spoke forcefully in favor of the bill and against the potentially "wrecking" amendments. Scottish National Party MSP Jim Eadie criticized the amendments as "both discriminatory and unnecessary," while Scottish Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie reminded his fellow parliamentarians that prejudice against glbtq people remains in Scotland, as evidenced by some of the mail he received during the consideration of the bill.

Eadie also said, "I believe this bill will have a hugely positive impact on our society and on the health and well-being of LGBT people in our country." He added, "This is a profound moment in our nation's history."

The vote was hailed by glbtq activists and organizations. Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said "Today will be remembered in history as the day that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were finally granted full legal equality in Scotland, and given an equal right to marry the person they love."

He added, "This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980."

Nathan Gale, development officer at the Scottish Transgender Alliance, remarked on behalf of the organization: "We are delighted that the Scottish Parliament has passed a bill today that can genuinely be described as equal marriage. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill puts the needs of trans and intersex people at its center."

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: "This a truly historic moment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland," and congratulated the MSPs for having "overwhelmingly demonstrated that they're committed to building a Scotland fit for the 21st century."

The bill must now be signed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Following the historic vote, Alex Neil, Minister for Health, issued the following video on behalf of the Scottish government.

 
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