Thursday, 26 July 2012

of weddings...

Some very, very good news.  And even better - a multi-party endorsement on this.... 'this' being the intention by the Scottish Government to allow same-gender marriage.

I thought Nicola Sturgeon's comments were very well measured, taking into account differences of opinion on the matter, as well as reassuring those amongst various religious communities who are against the move, that they will not be 'forced' to do this as they kept claiming.  The new legislation takes into account those religious groups who actually do want to perform weddings for same-gender folk as well as those who in conscience don't want to.  This works along the same lines as a minister's right to refuse - if they don't agree with it - to marry a divorced couple... and a minister's right to choose to marry a divorced couple.  I've been very puzzled by all the claims regarding 'being forced' into marrying LGBT couples.  Nevertheless: good news and jolly well done to the Scottish Government.
Sturgeon stated:

"The Scottish Government understands and respects the fact that there are very deeply held views in Scotland both for and against same sex marriage and, in coming to our decision, we have had to carefully consider a number of different factors.
"We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships. We believe that this is the right thing to do.
"We are also mindful of the fact that the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament support same sex marriage and that there is significant parliamentary support for legislation.
"However, we are also deeply committed to freedom of speech and religion. The concerns of those who do not favour same sex marriage require to be properly addressed. It is therefore right that the next step in this process will be to consult stakeholders on any provisions that may be required, in either statute or guidance, to protect these important principles and address specific concerns that have been expressed.
"The Scottish Government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.
"However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act. We will work with the UK Government to secure agreement to such an amendment before the formal introduction of a Bill to Parliament, with a view to it being in place before the legislation comes into force.
"A range of other concerns have also been expressed and we will take the opportunity to discuss with stakeholders what additional protections should be included, either in the legislation itself or in guidance, to address these.
"This will include consideration of any provisions that may be required to protect religious beliefs of teachers and parents in schools.
"We also intend to protect the current situation whereby the faith content of the curriculum in Catholic denominational schools is determined by the Scottish Catholic Education Service.
"Scotland is by no means the first and will not be the last country to legalise same sex marriage. However, as we proceed towards legislation, our overriding concern will be to respect the variety of views that exist on this issue and do whatever we can to address those concerns that have been expressed, while ensuring that Scotland lives up to its aspiration to be an equal and tolerant society."

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