After several delays the SNP administration in Scotland has announced it plans to change the law to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The move could see it become the first part of the UK to do so but the timing of the changes may mean the Westminster government gets there first if it also announces plans to legalise gay marriage.
That’s because the SNP isn’t expected to allow gay couples to marry in Scotland before 2015 while Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minster, has already promised his party that gay & lesbian couples will be able to marry in England and Wales “by 2015”. As yet though the Westminster government has to formally decide whether or not it will legalise same-sex marriage following a public consultation earlier this year.
The news that Scotland will legalise same-sex marriage was welcomed by political leaders, equality groups and some faith groups – such as Quakers. The Catholic Church in Scotland, which has been outspoken in its hostility towards gay & lesbians, has criticised the move by the SNP. A spokesperson is quoted by BBC News as saying “The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale. We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships.”
The SNP has insisted that no part of the religious community in Scotland would be forced to hold same-sex marriages in Churches. The government in Scotland has said it will work with the UK government to amend equality laws to protect those who refuse to hold same-sex wedding ceremonies.
A number of European countries have already legalised gay marriage such as Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and most recently Denmark while France has announced it intends to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry by next year.