Historic Same-sex Marriage Vote by the Church of Scotland
Gay Lawyers has learned that on Sunday the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to sanction the writing of new laws to allow same-sex marriages in church. If the new laws are passed, ministers will be able to conduct same-sex marriages for the first time. Civil marriages have been permitted since 2014. The revolutionary measures were proposed by the Reverend Bryan Kerr. The vote came after the Right Reverend Susan Brown was installed as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
It will be no surprise that there were some reservations expressed by some in the Assembly. The question of safeguards to protect ministers who find that they cannot perform same-sex marriages was raised. At present there are provisions to protect those ministers who do not wish to carry out same-sex marriages. It would be most unlikely that these safeguards will be removed in future drafts.
The Assembly only meets once a year and there is likely to be a fairly lengthy wait before any new laws are enacted as the proposals will now be presented to the Legal Questions Committee of the General Assembly which has two years to consider the proposals and respond. The final report is expected to be delivered in 2021.
The question of same-sex marriage ceremonies in church is a hotly contested topic. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is the Scottish equivalent to the Anglican Church and in part acknowledges the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the first Anglican branch of the church to permit same-sex marriage services in the UK and came in for heavy criticism from the wider Anglican Church for its pains. The head of US Episcopal Church faced a significant backlash for embracing the LGBT community, even appointing openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.
Gay Lawyers thinks that this decision is to be applauded, particularly the fact that a colossal 345 of the 515 General Assembly voted in favour. It is always easier to keep things the same rather than take the daunting route of change, especially when the changes will bring harsh reactions. Regardless of the relatively slow progress, the move towards parity for the LGBT community appears to be unstoppable. If the pillars of society continue to support the rights of the LGBT community will carry on making progress. It is up to the LGBT community to keep up the pressure in the areas where there is not an even playing field and make sure that crucial issues of discrimination are not brushed under the carpet.
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