On Feb. 4, 2014, Scotland became the 17th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage when the vote passed on the Freedom to Marry bill. With the battle surrounding this issue raging on all over the world, one more government has made a decision to support marriage equality.
Originally, the bill was not meant to be voted upon until 2015. The government pushed the vote forward, however, much to the joy of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality activists. The bill marked a landslide victory for marriage equality advocates, with 105 votes for it, and only 18 votes against. Currently, same-sex couples in Scotland are able to enter into civil unions, but marriages will be allowed to occur later this year.
The two largest churches in Scotland, the Scottish Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, opposed the bill and are unhappy with its approval. This objection is despite the fact that the bill contains protections for religious bodies preventing them from being forced to officiate same-sex marriages if their faith does not approve of them. The protections even go so far as restricting same-sex marriage from being allowed to occur on religious property. Religious institutions in Scotland may opt in if they wish to perform same-sex marriages, however it is not by any means required of them to do so.
One of the provisions many are finding interesting in the bill, however, does not deal solely with the concept of same-sex marriage, but rather it deals with the idea of fake marriages. According to BBC News Scotland, religious institutions may now be subject to pass certain legitimacy tests before they are allowed to solemnize a marriage or register a civil partnership. This addresses other concerns from the religious camp about the so-called “sanctity of marriage,” where previously any man and woman could marry one another without question. Under this new system, that may no longer be an option.
Additionally, transgender people will no longer be forced to divorce their partner when they apply for their Gender Recognition Certificate, which allows them to be recognized in an official capacity as the gender with which they identify.
Although Scotland is queued to vote on their sovereignty from Great Britain this fall, they seem to be following in the footsteps of the other countries in the union. England and Wales both passed a bill that legalized same-sex marriage in July 2013. With Scotland now doing the same, the only country in Great Britain that has not yet made any move towards marriage equality is Northern Ireland. In fact, the Northern Ireland Assembly has no plans to enact any legislation regarding same-sex marriage.
In any case, most activists believe that this is a huge step forward in the fight for human rights in Great Britain. Scotland only repealed the criminalization of homosexuality in 1980, so this rapid shift in views has surprised many.
Supporters recognize that they may have a long road before them, but as more and more people appear to be joining their fight and rallying against anti-LGBT laws, governments and the people who run them are being forced to reexamine their laws and constitutions. Last year alone, 6 more countries legalized same-sex marriage. This legislation by the Scotland government marks them as the first country to follow suit in 2014, and the 17th country worldwide to have supported marriage equality in an official capacity.
by Robin Syrenne