Same-sex marriage bill within the month

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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The Scottish Government has confirmed it will introduce a bill within the month to allow same-sex marriage.

Health secretary Alex Neil told MSPs the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will be introduced in the current parliamentary session, before MSPs break-up for summer at the end of June.

The Scottish Government has pledged that if the bill is passed, no church or religious celebrant will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages if they do not agree with them.

Mr Neil said: “I would hope the timetabling would be such that we could see this bill become law sooner rather than later.”

The UK government’s plans to legalise gay marriage cleared the House of Commons last week.

Talks have been taking place with the UK government because ministers at Holyrood believe an amendment is needed to UK equalities legislation to protect individual celebrants who may not want to conduct same-sex ceremonies even if their church backs them.

Mr Neil said “substantial progress” has been made on the issue in discussions with UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

A spokesman for Scotland For Marriage, which is campaigning against same-sex marriage, said it was “in the midst of cranking up our activity”, as he insisted: “The politicians of Holyrood are a million miles away from public opinion on this issue.”

Labour’s Drew Smith asked Mr Neil when gay couples in Scotland would be able to get married, and if he thought the first weddings “would take place before or after the September 2014 referendum”.

Mr Neil said: “I’m not thinking in terms of a referendum, rather the principles of the bill. We have given a commitment to introduce this legislation after the extensive consultation we have had as quickly as possible, which is what we’re doing.”

Ministers promised to change the law, but also to protect the rights of religious groups who do not want to carry out such ceremonies.