Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 20th November 2013.

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Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

Yes, it is and I must also inform the chamber that I intend to issue the legal text of the proposed amendments to the 2010 act before the completion of stage 2. Obviously, we have to agree the legal text with the lawyers in London as well as the lawyers here, but if members look at the protections in our bill alongside the text of the amendments to the 2010, they will see that the protections are unequivocally unchallengeable with regard to the individuals and the churches in question. Indeed, the protections extend to organists, who are essential to a church ceremony. If an organist turns round and says, “I refuse to play the organ at a same-sex marriage ceremony”, they, too, will be protected from any prosecution. This is the most comprehensive set of protections imaginable for any piece of legislation that we have ever introduced.

As a result—and I thank Jackie Baillie for emphasising this point—I think that we have achieved a balanced package. On the one hand, we are extending the freedom and rights of those who wish to engage in same-sex marriage and, on the other, we are putting in place all these protections for people who are either against it in principle or who do not want to participate.