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Comment: Here’s why equal marriage in Scotland is taking longer than in England and Wales

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  1. That There Other David 18 Jul 2013, 7:58pm

    And here we all were thinking Westminster had the more convoluted process. That sounds exhausting chaps. Keep up the good work.

  2. It is frustrating, but’s now it’s actually started the legislative process in Parliament, I’m not too concerned.

    But the Scottish Parliament was set up to be less bureaucratic than Westminster, so it’s disappointing that it’s taking so much longer for this issue that it did in Westminster.

    Remember, the Scottish government actually launched the issue first, but now Westminster have overtaken them by a mile.

    1. I blame the overloaded consultation periods and response analyzing for this. Probably a tactic used by the homophobic groups to deliberately stall the bill if it wasn’t for the all the fuss and formality of going through all the consultation items then doing it again after the draft was published the same thing happened again. Think the Scottish Government needs to review there consultation process, because the alcohol bill was also stalled with all the scrutiny applied to it But on the plus side the longer it takes to make the bill up means the bill will have less problems in terms of whats in it because the bill has not been rushed through the parliament.

      1. I can’t really complain that the consultation process has resulted in a better Bill, but I do still question why it was put to a full public consultation, particularly on the draft Bill. Surely a consultation of experts and LGBT equality groups would have sufficed?

        The downside to the first consultation, is that it’s still being used as “evidence” that a majority of people are against equal marriage. While this isn’t true, ordinary people believe it. I actually know someone who didn’t really have strong opinion on it, but was in favour of same sex marriage when pushed, who then changed their mind after the first consultation because she believes a majority of people are against it and that the Scottish government are ignoring the wishes of the people!

  3. Bill Cameron 18 Jul 2013, 8:18pm

    I think Tom French has explained the whole process pretty clearly – thanks.

    Following the Royal Assent yesterday for England&Wales, I emailed all my MSPs (1 Constutuency, 7 List). So far I have had responses from 5 of the 7 List MSPs as follows:

    – 1 SNP says will “certainly take my views into consideration”; read that how you will;
    – 2 Independent (both formerly SNP, resigning over SNP NATO policy changes) expressed unequivocal support for legislation;
    – 2 Labour (1 replied on behalf of both) responded by waffling about religious freedom – I’ve no idea what they really think.

    No response so far from:
    – Constituency MSP (who is SNP);
    – 2 Conservative List MSPs.

    From other knowledge I have, one of Labour MSPs above is probably favourable, the other I’m not so sure about – the one who actually responded with the waffle, as it so happens.

    This may pass in due course I hope, but perhaps with some “watering down”.

    I’ll write more if there are further developments.

    1. I wrote to my 8 MSPs (West Scotland & Cunninghame South) months ago urging them to support equal marriage. 6 have declared in favour, the other 2 have yet to declare their position. One declared a week or so after I’d contacted her, so I like to think my doing so helped! You can check on your MSPs stances here, if they’ve taken a stance yet:

  4. Could be worse, Tom. You could live in Northern Ireland, where the DUP consistently vetoes even a motion to have a debate on the issue.

    1. Itchycoo Mark 19 Jul 2013, 3:27pm

      no surprise there then!

  5. gattagiudecca 18 Jul 2013, 9:02pm

    Surely a political party with a majority in the Scottish Parliament could bring this in much quicker if there was the political will to do so? Especially since the majority of MSPs have pledged their support. The long process in Scotland is more than just frustrating. It tells me that I am no longer welcome in the country of my birth. It tells me that the Scottish Government is quite happy to drag their heals over lgbt equality. If a Tory Prime Minister in Westminster can bring in marriage equality in a much faster time-frame, despite the majority of his MPs voting against it, then it shows that mountains can be moved if the political will is there. So, perhaps Alex Salmond should ask David Cameron if he is willing to share some of his backbone?

    1. You do make a good point when you put it like that. I’ve often been very critical of the SNP in the past few years over it’s stance on gay equality and homophobia within it’s ranks (e.g. Souter’s millions, Roseanna Cunningham etc) but I’ve been trying to give them the benefit of the doubt more recently.

      Maybe the SNP government is dragging it out so it won’t be in place before the independence referendum. Like all politicians, they’ll want to appeal to all voters, so they could say to decent minded people that same sex marriage is on it’s way, while also hinting to the bigots and homophobes that it’s not finalised yet and could be stopped. Or perhaps I’m just being far too cynical! LOL!

      1. Equality Network 18 Jul 2013, 9:47pm

        The Scottish Goivt have introduced a pretty good bill (although not perfect) in the Parliament, so that’s step in the right direction. The test will come in Sept to Dec when we see how the bill gets on in the Parliament, and in particular in Sept & Oct, in the Equal Opportunities Committee. That Committee has 3 SNP, 2 Labour, 1 Tory and 1 independent MSP as members, and we’ll all see how they each do in terms of supporting the bill or not, supporting or not supporting calls for good or bad amendments, and trying or not trying to hold up the progress of the bill.

        1. I think you’re right about the real test being how MSPs react to the Bill, in Committee and in the chamber of Parliament when it comes to amendments and voting for it.

          I still think the Scot gov took an awful long time to go through the public consultation stages, which may have resulted in a better Bill in the end, but I’m still skeptical that a member of the public could have thought of something that government ministers, their legal advisers and civil servants hadn’t.

          And remember they wouldn’t even commit to it for months until hearing all views, which I still don’t understand to this day, especially when the coalition government did so from day one.

          But leaving that aside, it’s finally begun the legislative process, and the test will be how it progresses now. Although I think it was a mistake for all parties to give their MSPs a free vote. It gives the MSPs a “get out of jail card” for their homophobia and their parties don’t need to deal with it either.

          1. Equality Network 18 Jul 2013, 10:04pm

            We’d encourage everyone to write to the party leaders and let them know (politely!) their views on how their party should support the bill!

          2. I actually e-mailed all parties some months back, before it was known they were all giving a free vote, asking if they’d give a free vote or not and all of them replied (except the Conservatives and SNP who never bothered to reply to me at all) saying they would be doing so.

            As all parties are giving their MSPs a free vote, then surely a party leader cannot put pressure on their MSPs to vote either way? For example, I’ve been in contact with my regionall Labour MSPs and local MP recently over Elaine Smith, and they just refuse to believe she’s a homophobe, saying it’s her personal view and it’s a free vote. One even curtly told me that Smith is entitled to hold her such views, “that’s what a democracy is.”

    2. billforsyth 18 Jul 2013, 10:48pm

      The Scottish parliament does not have a second chamber like Westminster and the process of public consultation was deliberately introduced and enhanced, as was the committee side of the parliament to give proper scrutiny and wider democratic involvement in law making .Holyrood is not a mini me version of Westminster and its processes are quite different .It is true that the SNP have a majority but the aim and purpose of Holyrood is to involve the whole parliament and to hopefully reach a consensus.The SNP in that regard are sticking to the original remit of the parliament even if others are not.Rushed or hasty law is seldom good law.

      1. Yes, the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill was rather rushed through by the Scot gov, and that’s a good example of a bad law.

      2. gattagiudecca 19 Jul 2013, 12:45am

        I still stand by my original post that when there is a political will to have something become law, then it happens. I am not attacking the SNP. I am not anti SNP/Labour/Tory/Libdem. I am just sick and tired of being a 2nd class citizen. I don’t care which political party makes this law – I just want the right to marry in my own country. Scotland could have been one of the first few countries to have equal marriage – we had a real chance on the world stage to shine, lead the way and be a beacon for other countries. Instead, both France and England/Wales got the law in before us despite facing considerable opposition to it (arguably worse opposition than existed in Scotland). Yet we in Scotland are still several years away from seeing the first same sex marriages.We are always going to trail in England’s shadow on this. So, as I said – if there was a political will to make it happen, then it would. Just as it has in France and England.

        1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 5:50am

          Having been giving evidence on the need for equal marriage to Scottish Parliament committees since 2009, and making the point that Scotland could go it alone first, we share your frustration with the long time it’s taking! It currently looks like the first same-sex marriages will be in early 2015.

        2. billforsyth 19 Jul 2013, 8:33pm

          The political will must follow the democratic process .Same sex marriage will be at most a couple of months behind that of England and there is also in Scotland the prospect of widening the availability of civil partnerships to include all of those gay and straight who want them .The reason the same sex marriage bill was passed in England so quickly was that the opposition to it fell away after the commons voted for it.

          1. I think, if I’ve understood gattagiudecca’s point, he wonders why it was a much shorter process in England when they had a harder time with all the opposition. Scotland is taking much longer with no opposition (in Parliament). So couldn’t the Scot gov have done it much quicker?

            They point about following the democratic process is slightly misleading as it is not a requirement that a public consultation (or indeed any form of consultation) be held, and I was told that in reply to an FoI request to the Scot gov. So it’s fair to ask why they chose to take such an exhaustive route when it’s not required and they don’t do it with every Bill.

  6. Well get a bloody move on, I have every intention of marrying a Scotsman and the hunt cannot begin until this is sorted !

    Keep up the good work :)

  7. Holyrood are wanting to take there time to perfect the bill rather than rush it through. Westminister has been criticized for making mistakes in certain areas in the bill But sometimes being to careful can make things worse!

    1. I think that the downside to it still being ongoing is that it gives a voice to the opponents, and there is always the fear that it may not get there in the end, for some reason, no matter how unlikely that is. The longer it takes, even if that time is about getting the Bill right, the more chance the bigots have to shout about it.

  8. gattagiudecca 19 Jul 2013, 12:59am

    Might just be my stupidity but the article doesn’t really answer why the process is taking longer in Scotland than in England and Wales. It lays out what has happened up to now and what the timetable is for the future……but that doesn’t answer the question. It would be useful to know if this timetable is normal/average for legislation to become law. Do the Equality Network feel it was rushed through in Westminster? Does Westminster have a shorter process?

    1. I’m no expert on this, but as far as I’m aware it is unusual for 2 full public consultations to be held on a Bill.

      I was told in response to an FoI request several months ago that only one other Bill (on Social Care) has had 2 consultations like this.

    2. Equal marriage passed through Westminster in about half the time that such legislation usually takes. The timetable motions were thrashed out, the votes were taken, and consultations weren’t really taken seriously.

      In contrast the Scottish Parliament is far more formulaic and simple. Committee-to-single-chamber ping pong. In normal circumstances we pass legislation a little quicker. A very high amount of bills do get the single or double consultation process though, so while I feel it was OTT I can’t really say that I support dropping that level of scrutiny just for laws I like.

      There is a little bit of leeway for the (rare) majority gov in the chamber to force the pace of this topic when it comes to leaning on committee members to release their Stage 1 report early…or to lodge barely any amendments…but as I say, this kind of timescale is fairly average. I think the extra months of consultation analysis and the fact that we are entering recess makes it look more drawn out.

    3. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 6:09am

      Hi gattagiudecca, The main delay was that it took a frustrating 21 months to go from first consultation to the bill being introduced in the Scottish Parliament, while the UK Govt did that in 9 months. One reason there’s more emphasis on pre-legislative consultation in Scotland is that there are only 2 amending stages to get a bill right once it’s in the Parliament, as opposed to 5 at Westminster. The marriage bill introduced in the Parliament is significantly improved as a result of the consultations.

      You’d need to ask the two governments though why there was such a big difference in timing and consultation process.

      In the Parliament, it will take around 9 months instead of 6 at Westminster. That’s in part because the processes are different. There are 129 MSPs, and 10 times that number of MPs and Lords at Westminister. The committee of MPs working on the England & Wales bill met 2 days a week for the whole day; the MSPs committee will meet one morning a week.

  9. Tom,on a first glance, it does seem rather perplexing why Scotland has lagged behind England/Wales in this respect. Section 28 and Trans hate laws quite rightly was given urgent attention. But I think equal marriage, because of the perceived impact it might have on society deserves deeper and more far-reaching scrutiny. If Scotland are taking their time consulting everyone to make sure the new legislation is water-tight then that can only be a positive for democracy and increases the confidence of the people for Scottish independence. I guess it’s up to organisations like yours to keep the pressure and momentum on the politicians to reach that conclusion. I am sure it will get there and all your hard work will be worth it in the end

    1. So are you suggesting the Scottish government is deliberately taking longer than usual with this Bill for same sex marriage to prove to voters that they’re responsible enough to run an independent Scotland? If there’s any truth in that, then it’s disgusting that such an important issue of gay equality is being used as a pawn for Scottish independence.

  10. It is a very good bill, let down by two interconnected things:

    #1 Cardinal O’Brien’s very vocal opposition for 4 years, tied in with the fact that the SNP won a huge Catholic vote from Labour for the first time ever. Glasgow is important in all this, including its multi-faith makeup.

    #2 A consultation process that perhaps naively sought to ‘burn out’ all opposition by allowing them plentiful soap boxes. In defence of the Scottish Government they truly did not have the resources to wade through that scale of responses.

    The Scottish Parliament is young and despite its first majority is generally run consensually and independently, so there is not much precedent of the legislative process being significantly fast-tracked. I reckon the SNP want it on the statute books very early in 2014 to clear the way for referendum talk, so the pace will inevitably quicken.

  11. Can two Scots marry in England or Wales? If so, will it count in Scotland?

    1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 7:43am

      Yes you don’t need to be long-term resident in England and Wales to get married there. If their marriage law comes into effect on say 1st April 2014, and the Scottish law on say 1st January 2015, then if you married in England in May 2014 and came back to Scotland, in Scots law you would be treated as being in a civil partnership for the interim until 1st Jan 2015, when your marriage would be recognised as a marriage (and recognised as being a marriage that began in May 2014).

      Dates are examples only – I’m not suggesting that those will be the start-up dates for the law. The relative start-up dates of same-sex marriages in England & Wales and in Scotland could be different.

  12. And there I thought it was because Scotsmen wear skirts and they already have enough trouble telling if it’s a same-sex wedding or not!

    (joking, obviously)

  13. Where there’s a will …

  14. Considering how appallingly England has screwed up the trans issues, including that exceptionally nasty spousal veto for anyone who wants to transition after marriage, I have no objection to Scotland taking a year or so longer and getting it right.

    Equality Network, does this mean that those of us in Scotland won’t have to worry about transphobic bits of law being slipped in? Could you tell us more about how the trans issues are being handled?

    1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 2:12pm

      Hi Sophie, the Scottish Transgender Alliance (STA) is based at the Equality Network, and EN and STA have been pressing the Scottish Govt on the trans content of the bill. It is a lot better than the consultation draft was, and in our view is slightly better than the English Act in a couple of small ways. But it’s certainly not equal marriage yet. And however well it goes with this bill there will be more to do on trans equality law.

      One of the problems for us in Scotland is that although gender recognition law is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the Gender Recognition Panel operates on a UK-wide basis, and that limits the extent to which in practice we can get different and better rules in Scotland. But we will continue pressing for the best we can get. There will be more info towards the end of next week on the STA website:

      1. Thanks. Could you give more details? Will Scotland introduce the spousal veto, for instance? I’ve also heard that there is, or will be, a law requiring trans people to reveal their status to future spouses before marrying them, though I’m not sure of the details. Is that the case, and if so, where?

        1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 2:58pm

          No, one of the things that’s better in Scots law is that, unlike English law, a marriage in Scotland cannot be annulled because one spouse didn’t tell the other that they have a gender recognition certificate. That’s a difference that we campaigned for when the Gender Recognition Act was going through, and the new marriage bill won’t change that.

          However, the new Scots marriage bill does currently enable a spouse to delay a trans person’s gender recognition by not signing a consent form to stay married. That’s an area that we’re currently looking at amendments to work for.

  15. I have a question from America.

    Wouldn’t a same-sex marriage performed in England or Wales be recognized and honored in Scotland? Doesn’t the UK have reciprocity of laws?

    1. see the comment further up above, it would be recognised as a civil partnership but not marriage. the law states (like the same issue in America now) that marriage is between a woman and a man, so the law has to change to include same sex partners. until the law changes for Scotland it would be a civil partnership. The law has only changed for England and Wales currently.

    2. Equality Network 19 Jul 2013, 3:03pm

      The Equality Network’s view has always been that full reciprocity might well be got through the courts if required. Our campaign for equal marriage started before England and Wales, and we thought if we got same-sex marriage first, couples could move to England and Wales and go to court to have their Scottish marriage recognised. Now it’s likely that England and Wales will get same-sex marriage a few months before we do. Once those months are up, there will be mutual recognition both ways. If it was going to take longer, we’d support going to court to get mutual recognition, but that shouldn’t be needed – except in Northern Ireland, where it looks like the courts may be the route needed to get marraige equality.

      1. Thank you.

  16. ChrisMorley 19 Jul 2013, 9:12pm

    For people in England and Wales, it has been very helpful that Scotland was ahead, especially in having already recognised Humanist ceremonies for Civil Partnerships. That Scottish precedent was used to secure a commitment to taking the necessary steps to permit Humanist same sex wedding ceremonies in England and Wales. The government was against that but was persuaded to change its mind.
    So our grateful thanks for that.

    I hope there are bits of the Westminster Act that can be used to leverage improvements in Scotland.

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