Scotland to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, Concerns on Religious Safeguards

(Photo Credit: Scottish Government/Ewan Mcintosh)Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Deputy First Minister, is seen at the launch of the Scottish National Party's 'Short' Campaign on March 22, 2011

A top Scottish legislator says there is strong support for same-sex marriages in Scotland and the government will legalize the relationships by 2015 as the Church of Scotland re-iterated its opposition and expressed concerns about safeguards for religious bodies opposed.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Wednesday that the next step in the 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," he said.

Sturgeon said an amendment to the UK Equality Act will be required "to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does not."

He added that there would be consideration of any provisions that may be required to protect religious beliefs of teachers and parents in school.

"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," he said.

The Rev. Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church of Scotland Legal Questions Committee said the denomination's position had not changed since consultations began last December.

He said unless its General Assembly decides otherwise "we cannot support the Government's proposals on celebrating civil partnerships or same sex marriage."

"We are acutely aware that opinions differ among our own members and that many people are anxious and hut in the current situation," he said.

"We believe homophobia to be sinful and we reaffirm our strong pastoral commitment to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs."

He said the Church's theological commission will report in May 2013 about issues of same-sex relationships.

"We will be scrutinizing the proposed legislation very carefully. In particular we are concerned that the Government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages," he added. "The Church's Legal Questions Committee has re-iterated these concerns to the First Minister. As yet, no satisfactory assurances have been received."

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