Scotland’s government to legalise same-sex marriages

The Scottish government is to introduce new powers to legalise same-sex marriages in churches and in civil ceremonies, despite vigorous and bitter opposition from church leaders.

A draft bill that will enable gay and lesbian couples to marry with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples will be published later this year and is expected to be enacted next year, after Scottish ministers resisted intense pressure from the Catholic church to drop the proposals.

The legislation will include significant new protections and “conscience clauses” for churches and individual clergy who object to gay marriage on religious grounds, said Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy first minister.

She added that opposition to the bill – which included 64% of the 62,000 responses from within Scotland to the Scottish government’s consultation – had not persuaded her to drop or dilute the measures.

“We believe that in a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, as we do in Scotland, then this is the right thing to do,” Sturgeon said…

Sturgeon said she was confident it would be passed comfortably: all the party leaders at Holyrood supported the measure, and a majority of Scottish National party backbenchers did so. The SNP will give their 67 MSPs a free vote.

The Roman Catholic church, backed by senior Muslim organisations and evangelical and presbyterian churches, organised a huge postcard and internet petition campaign against the proposals.

But Sturgeon said detailed responses using the Scottish government’s own online consultation document showed a majority in favour of gay marriage: by 65% to 35% against. Major public opinion polls also showed that most Scottish voters supported same-sex marriage, with about two-thirds of Scots in favour.

A proud day for Scotland indeed. And an object lesson from a government not especially known as being more progressive than conservative – still willing to lead rather than to diddle around with populist opportunism.

May we someday be subject to such bravery in Washington.

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