That’s all for now! Join us for the next debate which we will be liveblogging.
For now, here is the article if you want to spread the good news about tonight’s vote, and here is an opinion piece by MSP Marco Biagi who spoke passionately in favour of equal marriage, which expresses his deeper views on the debate.
More to follow!
The Marriage and Civil Partnerships bill for Scotland has passed its Stage 1 Debate with a massive 98 votes to 15! (5 abstained)
The vote is about to happen!!!!!!!!!
The debate is over on the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill. Next up is the vote! Watch this space!
“It’s not the text of the bill that matters, it is the message that it sends about 21st Century Scotland”, Mr Neil begins to wrap up. He says all Scottish people are “All Jock Tamson’s Bairns”, and are all entitled to equal marriage.
Hanzala Malik asks what protections would be there if there was a successful appeal to the European Court against the bill.
Mr Neil maintains that he believes no challenge to the bill would ever be successful.
Mr Neil uses the example of an organist refusing to take part in a same-sex wedding ceremony to show that they would be protected by the “balanced package”, of the bill.
Annabel Goldie, Conservative, says she has a concern over an issue to do with renting out halls for wedding receptions etc. Mr Neil says the protections apply, and that he will issue the legal documents to do with the protections.
Addressing a question from Jamie McGrigor, Mr Neil says he can “absolutely” assure that religious institutions will be protected by the bill, should they not wish to perform same-sex marriages.
He says there are four levels of protection, and that it is “totally compatible”, with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Speaking passionately for equal marriage, he put it simply: “Those previously ineligible for marriage will now be eligible for marriage”, and that religious organisations can perform same-sex marriages should they want to.
He says the only way it touches on religious institutions is to allow them to choose to perform same-sex marriage, should they want to.
Mr Neil goes on to defend the legislation, saying it is about legal marriage, and that it does not interfere with religious marriage.
Alex Neil returns to conclude, saying tonights debate is one of the most powerful the chamber has ever seen.
Ms Baillie wraps up by asking whether MSPs would want their LGBT child to feel excluded, if equal marriage did not pass.
She speaks of a togetherness in the agreement across the chamber on the issue, remarking that it, and Elaine Murray’s comments on being “vertically challenged”, highlights the diversity of humanity.
Jackie Baillie speaks passionately to say that it is important that religious concerns are addressed, but that it should not stop Scotland from legalising equal marriage.
She says the SNPs who have spoken against equal marriage tonight are “simply wrong”.
Ms Baillie lists that it is long ago (up to 12 years), since countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium legalised equal marriage, to highlight that now is the time for equal marriage.
Ms Baillie says she disagrees with Mary Fee’s assertion that moves towards equality are moving “at a snail’s pace”, noting the rapid changes in opinion on equal marriage.
She jokes that it is “dangerous” to disagree with Ms Fee.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour, returns to conclude.
He concludes to reflect on the removal of Section 28, the lowering of the age of consent, saying that the chamber has the “privilege” of allowing Scotland to progress, and to strengthen the “wonderful institution of marriage”
Mr Lamont says that his constituents, particularly younger voices, meet the suggestion of opposition to the bill with “bafflement”.
Patrick Harvie speaks in to ask him to acknowledge that most marriages are civil in Scotland currently, and religions should support civil marriage with a view for equality.
Mr Lamont defends the bill in saying that it will give religions “greater freedom”, to make up their minds on equal marriage, but that they will not be forced to.
Saying he understands if they did, but he would be said if religions did not embrace same-sex marriage.
“I believe that this change is not only right, but inevitable,” he urges those opposed to ask themselves whether they want their religion, church and society to fail to embrace change.
John Lamont, Conservative takes to the floor to say that the “emotive” equal marriage debate has engaged many across Scotland.
He says speaking as a Church of Scotland elder, he understands religious concerns about equal marriage, as well as a desire to remain up-to-date.
The speaker calls the move to the wind up speeches.
Mr Finnie says some people’s “strange obsessions with physical acts”, alarmed him.
He is wearing a great tie.
Mr Finnie said as a police officer in the 1970s, he learned laws against homosexuals which seemed “bizzarre”.
John Finnie, is the final speaker in the open debate, says he “fully endorses” the bill.
He accepts that the vote will pass “eventually”, but says he is standing up for his constituents.
“People who wish to adopt will be questioned on their views [on equal marriage]”, according to Mr Lyle.
Mr Lyle says he is concerned that some doctors and foster carers will be deemed unsuitable for their jobs if they oppose the bill.
He said he used to be a foster carer and that he feels because he speaks out against equal marriage, he would not be accepted as a foster carer now.
Richard Lyle, SNP, says he does not believe the bill is “watertight”, and that people who oppose it will be “persecuted in the workplace”.
Ms McTaggart has said she believes in both secular or religious ceremonies, as well as straight civil partnerships.
She says if straight couples are not offered civil partnerships, it is unfair.
Noting her own Christian values, she says she understands religious concerns, but that she is reassured by protections in the bill for religious groups.
Anne McTaggart, Labour, says she strongly supports the bill because of prejudice.
Not only because of prejudice on individuals, but because she believes it holds Scotland back.
“Religion should not be a barrier to this legislation. It is highly important to the legislation”, he says.
He says: “there’s no losers in this, there are only winners”.
James Dornan says he does not support equal marriage because constituents said he should, but because he personally supports it.
He says noone will be “less married”, because of equal marriage.
Ms Mitchell says that “the pendulum has swung too far”, in “seeking to redefine marriage”, through the bill.
She says she strongly condemns any attacks on the LGBT community, including people feeling they must stay in the closet, or be forced into straight marriages.
“There is nothing remotely fair in seeing to dismiss the deeply held religious beliefs”, of Scottish people, she concludes.
Margaret Mitchell, Conservative, says equal marriage sets “two strands of equality”, religious and LGBT, against each other.
Acknowledging that she is in the minority view, she says she will not give way.
Elaine Murray ends an emotive speech in support, saying she doesn’t choose to be short as much as gay people don’t choose to be gay.
Patrick Harvie takes to the floor. (The speaking time has been reduced to 5 minutes).
He speaks of being bisexual, and says he is unsure on whether he will get married, but that choice is key.
He says in his lifetime he has seen society begin to fall apart, and argues that the Parliament should work to “strengthen marriage”, and that he worries that it is a “wrong priority at the wrong time”.
Alex Johnstone, Conservative, takes to the floor.
Ms McAlpine says she hopes the passing of the bill will show Scotland is a tolerant society.
She says her cousin died three years ago, and that his partner was treated with respect, and was the chief mourner. Ms McAlpine says older members of her family reached a point of acceptance, without abandoning their religious beliefs.
She notes her friendships with gay friends, particularly a close school friend Cal, as part of her reasons for supporting the bill.
Ms McAlpine says she supports the principle of equal marriage, but that her reason for speaking was personal.
She says she did not know anyone who was gay when she was growing up in a Catholic family, but that she remembers perceptions of gay people changing.
She notes the “preposterous” allegations that gay unions are “tainted”.
Equal marriage cannot come too soon for Scotland “Equal Marriage cannot come too soon for Scotland. It is wrong… http://t.co/7J0SJyllkK
— NE Scot Lib Dems (@NEScotLibDems) November 20, 2013
She notes the moves forward for equality in recent years.
Joan McAlpine, SNP says she will vote for the bill because it is about “respect”.
Jim Hume says he is proud to be part of the Scottish Parliament, but also notes the EU countries, and US states which have allowed equal marriage.
He says the Lib Dems believe in a freedom of expression”, and that his party supports the progress of the bill. He notes the deletion of historic convictions from when it was illegal to be gay, and the removal of the ban on gay men giving blood.
Mr Hume notes the concerns of religious bodies that they may be forced to perform same-sex marriages, but says “I simply don’t buy that”.
He echoes the historic nature of some religious institutions to turn down some opposite-sex couples who wished to get married, saying he does not recall any court cases there.
Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat, takes to the floor in support of equal marriage.
Mr Stewart urges MSPs to think of their children and grandchildren who may grow up to be LGBT, and to allow them to “share the happiness and the love, and the trials and the tribulations of marriage”, he gets more applause as he urges members to vote in favour oft the bill.
He says he has respect for religious freedom, but says that while religious people have said they feel marginalised, gay people have “felt marginalised for oh so many years”. (He gets applause from the chamber).
Mr Stewart goes on to discuss attempting to hide his own sexual orientation growing up… He says he believes in tradition marriage, because it served him and his siblings well, but that it “should be extended to all people… I think that is only right.”
Kevin Stewart, SNP, says that a large number of his constituents hope that he will vote yes
He reads a letter from a constituent saying: “As a gay teenager I cannot state strongly enough the impact that equal marriage would have on me personally”, and society.
Going on, he notes that he was a teenager during Section 28, and the AIDS epidemic, saying the letter from his constituent made him think back to his own teenage years.
Ms Smith says the bill will result in “discrimination and legal action against many of [Scotland’s] citizens”.
Gallagher’s assertion goes on to say that some politicians only support it because they think they think it will get them “a few votes”.
She notes Scottish author Tom Gallagher who said: “The arrival of gay marriage only benefits a small group of activists”.
She says there are no safeguards for freedom of speech for religious groups. Ms Smith goes on to say that hundreds of her constituents have asked her to vote against it.
She said that she was concerned that MSPs who signed the Equality Network’s equal marriage pledge felt like the had to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. (?)
“Signing a pledge and voting for legislation are different things”.
Elaine Smith stands by an assertion that she believes in “live and let live”.
Ms Smith says the Catholic Church would not be able to afford a legal challenge, if they refused to perform same-sex marriages.
Elaine Smith, Labour MSP, says that those opposed can “disagree with respect” for one another, but says she has been “likened to the Ku Klux Klan”, since she does not support same-se marriage.
He notes the choice of NHS staff whether to perform adoptions or not, comparing it to equal marriage.
“I do not seek to impose Christian values… I do seek equality for everyone… but I am not convinced, I will vote against the bill”.
Mr Mason asks, despite stark guidelines within the bill to the contrary, whether, if the European Court of Human Rights gets involved, it will “become compulsory” for churches to perform same-sex marriage.
He says he wants to show his love for Jesus, and echoes the concern of safeguards for religious freedoms.
Giving way, he is asked whether he agrees on whether there is a majority of people in Scotland who are just “puzzled” because equal marriage has not taken place yet.
Mr Mason says debate is what the Parliament is for, and that it Parliament should “tread lightly”, so as not to offend Scottish people.
John Mason, SNP for Glasgow Shettleston, commends the “reasonable tone” at committee stage’s debate.
She says the 2009 legislation to allow same-sex couples to adopt was also “long overdue”.
Ms Fee rejects the idea that allowing same-sex couples would take away from existing marriages. She says she finds it difficult to see how anybody’s freedoms would be infringed by the bill.
Ms Fee says: Those against the bill use the complementarity of opposite sex couples as a basis for marriage.
The ability to procreate does not necessarily make a perfect union, and says that the idea that same-sex couples cannot parent children adds to the stigma experienced by single parents.
She compares the fight for equal marriage to the Suffragettes’ fight to legalise the voting age.
Comparing the introduction of voting for women over 30 in 1918, she says there is a “two-tier discriminatory system”, with civil partnerships, and that equal marriage is necessary.
Mary Fee, Labour MSP, says today is “Truly historic and long overdue.”
“When I came out, it was the time I stopped looking at the people around me and thinking I wanted to be like them, I began to want the same rights as them”, -Marco Biagi.
Marco Biagi continues that civil partnerships were a “welcome step,” but says it reminded him of “ladies degrees”, which were a substitute for equality.
He says civil partnerships are “separate but equal, but never equal… they are not enough”.
Returning to the concerns that religious institutions may be forced to perform same-sex weddings, he notes that in none of the nine countries in Europe with same-sex marriage have seen that happen.
He says Scotland has a chance to make “a picture of our society that young people can look at for generations to come, and see themselves in it,” saying that everyone, including religious young people, should be able to feel comfortable as part of society.
Mr Biagi says he “did not see [himself]”, in the then representation of gay and lesbian people in society when he was growing up.
Marco Biagi of the SNP, speaks personally to say that it is “more fundamentally more than a question”.
He says that when he was growing up, he “was afraid”, when he realised he was gay.
The speaker indicates the beginning of the open section of the debate, and that 20 MSPs have said they wish to talk.
She says she believes that “marriage is something to be believed in”, and strongly supports the bill.
“We tell our children that you’re good enough to serve in our armed forces, serve in our schools, but you are not good enough to marry”, if they are in a same-sex couple.
“That apartheid message, that same-but-different is what is reflected in every hurtful comment,” whether that be at school, at work, or in life in general.” Ms Davidson continues.
Ms Davidson calls civil partnerships as a “facsimile of marriage, and that she does not want another generation of gay people to grow up thinking marriage is not an option.
Jamie Hepburn interjects, noting his own young children, and asking what Ms Davidson thinks will happen if the bill fails to pass. She replies to note research about homophobic bullying, and the urgent need for equal marriage to change opinions.
She says the “unthinking right to marriage”, is already available to the leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but that she wishes to see it extended to same-sex couples.
Ruth Davidson, the openly gay Conservative MSP, and the UK’s most senior openly gay politician takes to the floor beginning a personal example of why she supports equal marriage.
She notes the stability of her parents’ marriage, saying it allowed her and her sister to “become who we want to be”.
She says the bill must be made more robust by the Government, but that “it is time for change, it is time to support equal marriage”, and urges members to support it.
“I believe equal marriage is an idea whose time has come”, she says she supports the bill strongly, in principle.
Ms Baillie, goes on to defend the religious freedoms put in place by the bill. She says that nothing will change in religious freedoms, noting that churches can already refuse to marry couples.
“It’s whether they love each other that matters”, Ms Baillie continues.
Using Portugal’s 2009 law to introduce equal marriage, noting the 81% who, when polled, said they identified as Catholic.
Ms Baillie notes that all European countries which have recently introduced equal marriage law.. She goes on to Canada, the US, and other countries around the world.
Interestingly, she notes that in the least affluent areas of Scotland, 67% of people supported equal marriage, and in the most affluent areas, 63%.
She notes, however that there is great support for legislation to introduce it.
“This cuts right across our country and right across society”.
55% of Catholics supported equal marriage she says.
She says attitudes in Scotland are changing. She notes the percentage of people in support of equal marriage had risen by 20% in five years.
“It’s about fairness, it’s about social justice… This is about how we see ourselves as a nation, and how others see us”, Ms Baillie continues.
Ms Baillie says that because there is a free vote, it is down to each MSP to make a personal decision on equal marriage.
Jackie Baillie Labour MSP of Dumbarton, commends the Scottish Government for the bill.
Ms McCulloch paraphrases the Robert Louis Stephenson quote: “Let them agree to differ; for who knows but what agreeing to differ may not be a form of agreement rather than a form of difference?”
She notes research that it would not change thew ay teachers teach about marriage, but that it is just “another strand in equality an diversity”.
She agrees with Mr Neil to say that the bill looks at lowering the age which people can apply for a gender recognition certificate, saying it may not be within the scope of the bill, but it should be included.
She notes the “spousal veto”, saying the committee thinks it should be removed.
She note that civil partnerships entered into abroad should not have to be dissolved, and that couples should have equal rights whether they enter into one abroad, or in Scotland.
In line with the Marriage Scotland act 1977, Ms McCulloch says it is important that the bill will put religious and civil celebrants on the same footing, noting that Humanists have been allowed to provide wedding ceremonies since 2005.
She says that the Equality Network asserted that same-sex couples being allowed to marry is about love.
She notes the Quakers’ view that the “complementary nature” of any couple.
Ms McCulloch refuses to give way, as she needs time to complete her report on the bill.
She says she hopes the “wider debate on equal marriage can proceed in that dignified way”.
Margaret McCulloch speaks on behalf of the Equal Opportunities Committee takes to the floor calling it an “emotive issue”.
As he concludes, Mr Neil is applauded. The speaker reminds the gallery not to applaud.
Mr Neil strongly urges MSPs to vote in favour of equal marriage to”further promoting equality and diversity in our society”.
Speaking of gender-neutral marriages, and spousal consent, Mr Neil says: “It is spousal consent to stay in a marriage, and it takes two to stay in a marriage”.
John Mason asks whether Mr Neil agrees with the QC’s guidance that the legal protections would have “no legal impact”.
Mr Neil denies this, calling it “nonsense”.
He agrees that it is “empowering” for religious institutions to be allowed to make a choice, noting that Quakers (to note one), want to be allowed to perform same-sex marriages.
Mr Neil, when asked, says it is inappropriate to discuss the specific issue of the Scottish Catholic adoption charity which was recently told it must accept applications from same-sex couples, or risk losing its charity status, has called the raising of children by gay couples “a terrible social experiment”.
He says the bill “establishes an opt-in system… and makes it clear that there is no duty to opt-in” by any religious institutions which do not wish to do so.
Mr Neil goes on to say that “this government believes in religious tolerance,” and the bill will be “balanced”, to allow religious institutions to decide their stance on equal marriage.
Mr Neil speaks of how the bill clarifies the position for Humanist celebrants, civil marriages and civil unions.
He says that he wants the bill to ensure that the”dignity and solemnity” of marriages is upheld.
The debate is starting as Alex Neil introduces the Marriage and Civil Partnerships bill to the floor.
Check back here from 5pm for live updates on the Scottish Parliament’s Stage 1 Debate on the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill!