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Fresh call for gay marriages to be legalised

It might be marriage in all but name – but now campaigners want to end that final inequality in gay partnerships.

Senior churchmen and a cross-party coalition of MSPs are demanding a change in the law in Scotland to give same-sex couples full marriage rights.

Polling evidence suggests a majority of Scots would back the move.

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Since 2005, same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships, which provide the same legal rights as marriage. However, they are not officially termed marriages and civil partnerships may not be conducted on religious premises or by religious celebrants.

The Equal Marriage Campaign is pressing for the Scottish Government to “lift the discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage”. The campaign, backed by the Liberal Democrats and Green Party as well as individual SNP and Labour MSPs and LGBT groups, also wants religious and humanist celebrants to have the freedom to officiate at same-sex marriages if they want to.

A poll of 1000 Scottish adults conducted on behalf of the Scottish Green Party in April found that 58% agreed that same sex couples should have the right to marry, while 19% disagreed.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, said he was strongly supportive of the idea. He said: “Anyone who can marry a couple currently should be able to marry same sex-couples.

“This is about justice for everyone. Civil partnerships have been a wonderful thing, but they are not equal; being separate isn’t being equal and the Government would be wise to move towards equality as soon as possible.”

He said the argument that allowing gay marriage could threaten the institution of marriage, was “a silly idea”. “I don’t think any gay couple have ever made a married couple feel less married,” he said.

The cause of equal marriage has been boosted by the UK Government’s decision to consult on a change in the law. On Monday, the deputy LibDem leader Simon Hughes predicted that gay couples would have the right to civil marriage before the next General Election, while Prime Minister David Cameron said last month that if religious organisations wanted to allow civil partnerships on religious premises, then “we should make that happen”.

The Scottish Government used a Sewel motion to allow Westminster to legislate on civil partnerships in 2005 on the basis that the law involved tax and immigration issues, which are reserved. However, campaigners believe that Holyrood could introduce an equal marriage law unilaterally in Scotland provided Westminster co-operated.

Robert Brown, LibDem MSP for Glasgow, said: “I would be surprised if there weren’t a commitment to legislate on this in the next Holyrood parliament.

“There’s a time and a place to deal with these things and I think the time and the place are here and now.”

Shirley Anne Somerville, SNP MSP for the Lothians, said: “In my view, equal marriage legislation of this kind would enhance – rather than diminish – religious freedom, as well as equality.”

The Scottish Catholic Church said it would not endorse or take part in religious ceremonies for same-sex couples, while a spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church said the church’s General Synod had not debated the question, but there was likely to be a variety of views. A Church of Scotland spokesman said the matter was under discussion by a Special Commission.

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