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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 29, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 26
Scottish government delays decision on marriage equality
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Scottish government delays decision on marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The government of Scotland has postponed its decision on a marriage equality bill until July 10.

A formal discussion will take place at the cabinet meeting that day, and government ministers will then make a decision on whether to propose a new law giving equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Equality advocates and some members of the Scottish Parliament have expressed disappointment that a decision on marriage has been postponed for the second time this year.

'Supporters of equality will be disappointed that a decision on equal marriage has been delayed again,' Equality Network policy coordinator Tom French said.

'There is clear support for equal marriage across the country and in the Scottish Parliament, so we are now calling on the Scottish government to stick by their principles and bring forward legislation.'

Scotland has been internally self-governing with its own parliament since 1998, and will not be affected by marriage equality legislation pending in the British Parliament in London.

Like the British government, the government of Scotland undertook a 'consultation' on marriage equality intended to gauge public opinion on the issue. The 50,000 responses were expected to be published in March, but will now probably be published after the July cabinet meeting.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have claimed that a majority of responses are against a change in the law, but the Scottish Equality Network has warned against 'prejudging' the consultation or treating it as 'a numbers game.'

'This is a consultation, not a referendum or an opinion poll,' the Equality Network said in a statement. 'What matters most is the quality of the arguments and the strength of the evidence, not the volume of responses.'

The Equality Network said it is optimistic that the government will announce marriage equality legislation, but added that it is working with Parliament members from all political parties to secure a 'member's bill' if the government decides otherwise.

A member's bill is a measure introduced by individual members of Parliament, rather than by the government that controls a majority in the body.

Members of minority parties said they believed most members of Parliament would vote for equal marriage rights.

'After delaying the decision in March, and the First Minister assuring me it would be made in June, perhaps it is 'third time's a charm' with the Scottish government on equal marriage,' Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democratic Party, said.

'The majority of [Parliament members] support it, the majority of the Scottish public support it - it is time that the Scottish government began legislating for equal marriage without further delay.'

Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage.

An Ipsos MORI poll conducted in June for the Equality Network showed support at record levels, with 64% of Scots in favor of a change in the law and just 26% opposed. Separate polls conducted over the past two years by Populus, YouGov, Angus Reid, and the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey have all shown similar results.

'After months of public debate it is now clear that equal marriage has the support of a majority of the public,' Marco Biagi, a member of the governing Scottish Nationalist Party, said.

'There have been impassioned discussions across letters pages, phone-ins, and online, but now the vision of an inclusive, accepting, and understanding Scotland has won out. That is a Scotland where all faiths are free to decide for themselves their understanding of marriage and what it requires. This is the kind of Scotland that can be a beacon to the world. The hotly anticipated bill on equal marriage is worthy of speedy introduction and will undoubtedly now receive widespread backing from both public and Parliament.'

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