16 December 2014
In February, Scotland became the 17th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage after the Scottish Parliament passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 by an overwhelming 105 votes to 18, the third strongest majority for any same-sex marriage legislation in the world. The Act received Royal Assent in March and the Scottish Government has since been implementing the new law including passing the necessary secondary legislation to bring it into effect.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 came into effect at midnight meaning that from today:
Same-sex couples will be able to give notice to their intention to marry and, following the usual 15 day notice period for new marriages, the first same-sex marriage ceremonies will take place on Hogmanay (31 December).
Those couples in current Scottish civil partnerships can choose, if they wish, to convert their civil partnership to marriage.
Those couples with foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised as married in Scotland. Previously they were recognised as civil partners.
Religious and belief bodies will finally have their freedom of belief respected as organisations that want to conduct same-sex marriages will be able to opt-in to doing so, and unlike in other countries no religious body will be banned from opting-in. So far those religious and belief bodies that have been authorised to conduct same-sex marriages include Humanist Society Scotland, the Unitarians, the Quakers, the Pagan Federation (Scotland), the Liberal Jewish Community, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Open Episcopal Church in Scotland, One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, and Fuze Ceremonies.
We’re thrilled that the Scottish Government has announced that same-sex couples in Scotland will be able to marry from 31 December! Those couples wishing to convert their civil partnership to marriage will be able to do so from 16 December. What better way to see in Hogmanay knowing that LGBT people in Scotland will be able, for the first time, to enjoy exactly the same rights as their straight friends and family. We’d like to thank you all for all your support in making equal marriage a reality in Scotland.
Here are some helpful hints to help you start planning your big day
From 16 December, equal marriage will be legal in Scotland. This means if you wish to get married you can submit notice from this date. There is a standard 15 day notice period for registering marriages in Scotland so the first wedding ceremonies can happen from 31 December. Same-sex marriages can be performed by registrars and by religious and belief bodies that agreed to do so. If you want your marriage performed by a religious or humanist celebrant you need to contact them first and then contact the registry office about submitting notice. If you want to be one of the first to marry we’d advise you to get in touch with your local registry office as soon as possible to book your date. We anticipate that the first few months will be very busy for registry offices.
Couples wishing to convert their civil partnership to marriage will be able to do so from 16 December. You will need to make an appointment with your local registry office as well as taking along your civil partnership certificate and photo ID. We are pleased to say that following our lobbying, the Scottish Government have agreed that for the first year, the conversion process will be free (there remains a small charge of £10 if you want a printed copy of your marriage certificate). If you wish to convert through a full marriage ceremony you will need to give the usual notice and pay the associated costs.
From 16 December, married trans people and those in civil partnerships will be able to apply for gender recognition without having to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership. Married trans people will be able to stay married and those currently in civil partnerships will need to convert to marriage and then get gender recognition. Trans people will also no longer need spousal consent to get legal recognition of their gender.
‘Historic moment’ for Scotland as 105 MSPs say ‘I Do’.
MSPs have given final approval to the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill with an overwhelming majority of MSPs saying ‘I Do’ to equality. The Bill, passed by a majority of 90, will extend the legal form of marriage to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and permit religious denominations to celebrate such marriages should they wish.
Colin Macfarlane, Director, Stonewall Scotland said: ‘This a truly historic moment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland. We’re delighted that MSPs have overwhelmingly demonstrated that they’re committed to building a Scotland fit for the 21st century.’
‘We’re also hugely grateful to the thousands of Stonewall supporters who have played a big part by contacting their MSPs to show their support. We’ll now be lobbying the Scottish Government to ensure that the first marriages take place in Scotland within months of the Act receiving Royal Assent.
During the Bill’s progress through Parliament, Stonewall Scotland and volunteers produced personalised briefings and speaking notes for MSPs. The charity gave evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee and has attended and lobbied at every stage of the Bill’s progress.
A huge thank you from all of Stonewall Scotland to the 98 MSPs who voted YES!
Stage One of the Bill process was a meeting of the whole Parliament to consider the Equal Opportunities Committee Stage One Report. The debate was followed by a vote on the principles of the Bill, which passed with an overwhelming majority of 83. The Bill will now proceed to Stage Two. Stonewall Scotland has provided all MSPs with a briefing on the key issues of the Bill.
Stage Two: FINISHED 16 January 2014
At this stage the Bill returned to the Equal Opportunities Committee for more detailed scrutiny and debate of any amendments to the Bill made at this stage. Stonewall Scotland worked closely with our colleagues in Government to ensure that no wrecking ammendments were made to the Bill at this stage, and that the concerns of LGB&T Scots were heard. The committee voted in favour of equality on every amendment. This included passing some significant amendments to improve equality for transgender people.
Stage Three: the final debate and vote: PASSED!
The Bill returned to the whole Parliament for further consideration and votes on amendments on 4 February 2014. This was followed by the final vote on the Bill: the majority of the Parliament voted in favour of the Bill, so it therefore passed!
The bill was given Royal assent on 13 March 2014!
After the Bill was passed there was a further four week period when the Bill could have been challenged by the Advocate General, the Lord Advocate, the Attorney General or the Secretary of State for Scotland. This did not happen and the Bill received Royal Assent on 13 March.
Stonewall fought long and hard for the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005. Sadly, as recently as 2010 Lord Tebbit stated: ‘We should be utterly, completely and absolutely clear that a civil partnership is not a marriage, cannot be a marriage, never will be a marriage and should be treated entirely separately from marriage.’
By insisting that marriage and civil partnerships must be kept separate and distinct opponents of equality still perpetuate the offensive notion, even if inadvertently, that relationships between people of the same sex are not as stable, rich or valid as those between mixed-sex couples. It is clear that these views impact negatively on public attitudes towards gay people themselves.
We therefore want to see marriage available to same-sex couples on the same basis as mixed-sex marriage, with no mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it.
The decision about whether to extend marriage to same-sex couples lay in the hands of our politicians, so it was vital that they knew how strong the support for this is across Scotland. Since December 2011 we have been pushing to raise awareness of the campaign, encouraging people to get in touch directly with their MSP and voice their support. A hundred thousand postcards were distributed across Scotland to encourage MSPs to support equal marriage. Order yours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stonewall Scotland is also part of a coalition of supportive groups who organised a march on parliament on Valentine’s Day in 2012. We presented the First Minister with a Valentine’s Day Card which read "Roses are white, thistles are blue, we believe in equal marriage and we hope the Scottish Government will too.”