Same-sex marriage is ‘in sight’ for Scotland as the parliamentary committee hears evidence today (5 September).
Several LGBT rights groups and religious organizations will be making their voices heard in the first hearing of oral evidence at the bill’s parliamentary committee stage.
A second panel will happen on 12 September.
While several gay rights organizations have said the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill is ‘better’ than the one that became law in England and Wales, they are hoping to ensure the problems are ironed out.
These problems include education, mixed-sex civil partnerships and spousal consent for trans people.
Speaking to Gay Star News, Stonewall Scotland’s Director Colin MacFarlane said it was a ‘tight’ bill that will stop many of the arguments that were made against the England and Wales legislation.
‘We’re delighted we have finally got the bill and now just want the parliament to it through as soon as possible,’ he said.
‘It's a tighter bill, I would say. I think we’ll have fewer issues than in England and Wales. It’s been well received.’
MacFarlane said there was one issue that rang alarm bells for him, as he felt equal marriage opponents will take advantage of the sloppy language used in reference to education.
In Scotland, any parent is free to take their child out of any sexual health education class.
‘Using the language of sexual health when you’re talking about relationships and families isn’t the right language to be using,’ he said.
The Equality Network were clear same-sex marriage and mixed-sex civil partnerships must be made legal as it is ‘unfair’, especially as civil partnerships can be seen as having a ‘second-class status’.
They brought up the example when considering the situation of bisexuals.
‘A bisexual person might fall in love with someone of the same gender or of the opposite gender – apart from the gender of the person, there is no difference in their relationship,’ the charity said.
‘The law directs the person to civil partnership or to marriage, with no choice, depending only on the gender of their partner.’
LGBT Youth Scotland said it was a very ‘popular’ bill among young people.
In their written evidence to the Scottish Parliamentary Committee, they quoted an 18-year-old currently engaged hoping for age limits to be lowered for the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
‘My partner and I have been engaged for approximately a year and a half now and although we were both very keen to be legally married and had planned to do so the summer following our engagement,’ they said.
‘However, as the age for GRC is 18 and at the time we were 17, we couldn’t get married...[Changing the age of GRC to 16] would have made a huge difference, my partner and I could have been married when we originally planned.’
The Scottish Transgender Alliance has said many trans people and their allies are ‘extremely concerned’ about the inclusion of a spousal consent requirement in the bill.
It effectively enables the spouse of a trans person to prevent their partner from obtaining gender recognition, unless the trans person is able to obtain a divorce.
Religious organizations will also be having their say on the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill.
The Quakers have said they ‘welcome the possibility that we shall be able to register and celebrate [same-sex partnerships] as marriages, giving such couples complete equality with heterosexual couples.’
However the Muslim Council of Britain has said ‘governments do not have the right to redefine marriage and/or subject the people to such a controversial environment with severe implication for the large majority of the Scottish People.’
They add: ‘Taking this further as outlined in the Bill will put an entirely and exceptionally bizarre dimension to the society at large to the detriment of all who oppose it and shattering their civil rights and freedom of expression and religious conscience.’
The Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, representing the Catholic Church, agreed saying: ‘The wisdom of the ages, the light of human reason and the teaching of Christian faith concur that marriage is a conjugal union of a man and a woman designed so that the children who may be born of that union will have a father and a mother.
‘It will divide society for the sake of a totem of ‘equality’ which has arisen amongst some campaigners despite the tiny percentage of same-sex couples who avail themselves of marriage in jurisdictions where it is available to them.’
While earlier this week it was reported same-sex marriage was going to be fast-tracked so it could be made legal by March, it appears it will take a little longer.
The Scottish Government have put down a motion to complete stage one of the bill by 6 December. If the bill passes all the votes, it looks like same-sex marriages could become law by summer 2014.