John M. Becker

Scotland Passes Marriage Equality

Filed By John M. Becker | February 04, 2014 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Catholic Church, Church of Scotland, equal marriage, gay marriage, Keith O'Brien, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, Scotland, spousal veto, UK, United Kingdom

rainbow-edinburgh.jpgThe parliament in Scotland gave final and overwhelming approval to a marriage equality bill today, putting same-sex weddings on track to begin in the country by autumn.

Members (MSPs) voted 105-18 in favor of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, making Scotland the third country in the United Kingdom to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry (England and Wales passed marriage equality in July).

This leaves Northern Ireland as the only country in the kingdom that continues to practice marriage discrimination.

The bill had the backing of the Scottish government, front-benchers in the Labor and Conservative parties, LGBT organizations, and the clear majority of the Scottish people. Supporters rallied outside during the debate, and a rainbow formed over Edinburgh. Politicians cheered as they passed the measure.

Scotland's two major churches -- the Scottish Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland (a Presbyterian church) -- vehemently opposed the measure, and Scotland's senior-most Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, threatened the government with "unprecedented backlash" if the bill passed. (He later resigned in disgrace after admitting to committing "inappropriate acts" with five current and former priests.)

gay-scottish-flag.gifThe bill contains extensive religious protections: officials and religious groups will not be required to perform same-sex weddings but can opt-in if they so choose, and individual celebrants who support marriage equality but whose faith groups oppose it (i.e. pro-equality Catholic priests) will not be allowed to solemnize same-sex marriages. Furthermore, it includes a provision stating that it is possible to oppose same-sex marriage "without being homophobic."

In a victory for trans advocates, the law ends the "spousal veto," which required married trans people to obtain written permission from their spouse before they could be granted gender recognition. It also allows them to stay married when obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, rather than requiring them to get divorced.

Congratulations, Scotland, and welcome to the right side of history!

If you're feeling a surge of Scottish pride, I've included the Scottish National Anthem, an "It Gets Better" video from Scotland's Gay Police Association, and the theme song from the Scotland-themed musical Brigadoon after the jump.

Rainbow photo source: Twitter user @PeterMcColl.
Scottish rainbow flag source: CRW Flags.

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