News In Focus
Committee majority supports Marriage Bill
A majority of members of Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee support the general principles of the bill to introduce same sex marriage in Scotland, but all MSPs should be able to vote on the bill as a matter of conscience, the committee said in its stage 1 report published today.
"We recognise the validity of perspectives on all sides of this issue and draw the Parliament’s attention to the depth, range and sincerity of the views submitted to us", the committee concludes. "We recommend to members of the Parliament to approach the stage 1 decision with the same dignified tenor as our evidence sessions and with due respect for a diversity of views.
"The majority of the Committee supports the general principles of the bill and recommends that Parliament approves the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. A minority of the committee does not support the bill because they disagree in principle or because they are not convinced that adequate protections are in place. We wholeheartedly support the right of individual members to decide on the bill as a matter of conscience."
In its report the committee has asked the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a number of issues raised in evidence before it, including the varying views expressed on the approach taken in the bill on protecting celebrants of faith and religious organisations’ freedom to conduct legally valid marriages in keeping with their doctrines.
It also highlights:
- an amendment raised by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities to redefine non-civil marriages, to more prominently reflect the distinction between religious ceremonies and belief ceremonies;
- an opinion expressed by the Humanist Society Scotland that the treatment in marriage law of the Church of Scotland affords it a privileged status;
- the spousal consent to be removed from the gender-recognition process.
In relation to the requirement in the bill that same sex couples who have entered into a civil partnership in another country must dissolve their partnership before being permitted to marry in Scotland, the committee believes that if same sex marriage is introduced, these couples should have similar access to the proposed administrative procedure for conversion of civil partnership to marriage as couples whose civil partnerships were conducted in Scotland.
Committee convener Margaret McCulloch MSP said: “All of us on the committee recognise the validity, depth and sincerity of all views submitted to us on what has clearly been an emotive issue for all of our stakeholders.
“While the majority of our Committee supports the general principles of this Bill, we wholeheartedly support the right of all members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on the Bill as a matter of conscience.”
The stage 1 debate on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will take place later this month.
Click here to view the committee's report.