Comment: Want to be one of the first to marry in Scotland?
With the Scottish Government having announced that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act will come into force on the 16th December 2014, couples across Scotland are rushing to be the first to tie the knot. Tom French from the Equality Network explains how you can make that happen.
In February, following our six-year long Equal Marriage campaign, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 was passed by the Scottish Parliament with an overwhelming majority of 105 votes to 18. In March it received Royal Assent, and since then the Scottish Government have been working on the detail and the secondary legislation required to bring the new law into force.
Many couples have been awaiting today’s announcement, eager to know when they can set a date and get the invitations in the post. With the Act coming into effect on 16 December, the first marriages will be on Hogmany, 31 December. Couples who want to be among the first to get married will need to contact their local registration office as soon as possible to book a date and sort out the practicalities. There is a standard 15 day notice period for registering marriages in Scotland so to marry on Hogmanay, the notice forms which have to be filled in will need to be submitted on the first day possible, 16 December. If couples want their marriage performed by a religious or humanist celebrant, they will need to make arrangements with them first and then contact the registration office about submitting their notices.
Although it won’t be possible to give notice before the 16th couples can get everything else organised and fill in the notice forms, which will be put up onto the National Records of Scotland website, in advance.
Couples who already have a civil partnership can be married by Christmas as those that want to convert their civil partnerships to marriage can do so from 16 December. Converting will be straightforward, just a trip to the local registration office with your civil partnership certificate and photo ID is all that will be required. If you want to do that on or soon after 16 December, contact your registration office in advance to make an appointment.
We are very pleased that the Scottish Government have announced that converting a current civil partnership to marriage will be free for the first year of the new law (there will though be the usual fee of £10 if you want a printed copy of your marriage certificate). It will also be possible to convert through a full marriage ceremony but the usual notice period and fee will apply.
Today’s announcement also brought welcome news for trans people who are married or in civil partnerships. From 16 December trans people will be able to apply for gender recognition without having to divorce or dissolve their civil partnership. Married trans people will be able to stay married.To begin with, those in civil partnerships will need to convert to marriage and then get gender recognition, although we hope a streamlined process will be introduced early next year so that gender recognition is granted and the civil partnership is converted to marriage in one step. Because we fought to ensure that there is no spousal veto on gender recognition in Scotland, a married trans person’s human right to get legal recognition of their gender will be respected as their decision, and not one that can be blocked by their spouse.
This is just one aspect of the legislation which makes Scotland’s equal marriage law one of the most progressive in the world and strengthens our place as a leader on LGBTI equality. Which is why, whether or not they are planning a wedding or want to convert their civil partnership, LGBTI people across Scotland who grew up in a country where being gay was still criminalised until 1981 will be celebrating today’s announcement.
There is still more to do to ensure full equality in people’s day-to-day lives, but this year we have taken a huge leap forward. On 31 December 2014 LGBTI people will have all the more reason to celebrate, as we bring in the new year as a fairer and more equal country.
There is much more information about how to marry, convert a civil partnership to marriage, or get gender recognition in Scotland here: www.equality-network.org/marriage
Tom French is the Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network.
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