Scotland legalises LGBT Marriage & its implications for Trans People

Years of campaigning leads to equal marriage victory in Scotland

Scottish Equal Marriage

A bill to legalise equal marriage has passed the Scottish Parliament in an historic final Stage Three vote.

Members of the Scottish Parliament voted earlier against several amendments tabled by the anti-equal marriage MSP, John Mason.

One of the amendments stated that no public sector employee should suffer “detriment” for believing marriage to be between a man and a woman.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil described Mr Mason’s amendments as unnecessary.

He said robust protections for faith groups had already been included in the legislation.

The Equality Network, the Scottish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality charity that launched the UK’s first major campaign for equal marriage in 2008, welcomed the vote as “a milestone for LGBT equality in Scotland”.

Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, said: “Today will be remembered in history as the day that lesbian, gay and bisexual people were finally granted full legal equality in Scotland, and given an equal right to marry the person they love.

“This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980. Scotland can be proud that we now have one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world, and that we’ve sent out a strong message about the kind of country we are.  We know this change means so much to LGBT people across Scotland and we look forward to the first same-sex marriages taking place as soon as possible.”

The Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill passed its first Stage One vote on 20 November.

It now awaits Royal Assent by the Queen.

The first same-sex marriages are expected to take place later this year after the Scottish Government pledged to speed up the implementation of the bill.

A poll in December showed a majority of Scotland’s population support equal marriage. 

Unlike the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales, Scotland’s equal marriage law will provide greater protections for transgender people. Married transgender people in Scotland will no longer be forced to obtain written consent from their spouse before they can get legal recognition of their gender.

Last August, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Liz Barker expressed regret that the UK Parliament had failed to remove the requirement from the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.

Scotland will allow gender neutral and humanists ceremonies, unlike in England and Wales.

The Church of Scotland will not automatically be banned from solemnising same-sex marriages, in contrast to the Church of England and Church in Wales.

Along with its Anglican and Catholic counterparts, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland has stated that it will not sanction its clergy to marry same-sex couples.

Scotland has become the 17th country in the world to pass same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland is now the only remaining UK nation where equal marriage has not been legalised.

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Comment: Scotland’s passing of equal marriage

is an important moment for trans and intersex people

scottishtrans.org

Scottish Transgender Alliance Development Officer Nathan Gale says Scotland’s decision to legalise equal marriage will benefit trans and intersex people in profound ways.

The passage of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill marks a significant step forward in terms of legal equality for trans and intersex people in Scotland. The Scottish Transgender Alliance and Equality Network secured a number of amendments to the bill ensuring that the needs of trans and intersex people are at the core of this historic legislation.

When the law comes into force trans people will finally be able to have the gender they identify as legally recognised regardless of whether they are married or in a civil partnership. Our successful spousal veto amendment means that even if a trans person’s spouse does not consent, they will still be able to obtain legal gender recognition. In passing this amendment, MSPs from across Scotland’s political parties recognised that access to gender recognition is a matter of personal autonomy and a human right which should not be able to be blocked by another person.

Other areas of the legislation important to trans and intersex people include a provision to allow couples to have gender neutral marriage ceremonies, whether they are legally mixed sex or same sex. This is particular important for non-binary gender and intersex people, who do not identify as being simply either female or male, and also for trans people from abroad because their overseas gender recognition is not automatically recognised in the UK. Without this amendment, an American trans woman, legally recognised as female at home but still legally male in the UK, would have had to stand in front of all of her guests and refer to herself as the husband.

Another of our amendments makes available a route to gender recognition with fewer evidence requirements for married people who transitioned six years ago or more. This is in recognition of the fact that such people would have been eligible to use the similar “fast-track” route which was available during the first two years of the gender recognition legislation coming into force, had it not been for the fact that they were married.

There is clearly a lot to celebrate today, however trans and intersex people are still a long way from the full equality under the law now enjoyed by lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The Scottish Transgender Alliance and Equality Network will continue to work tirelessly to advance trans and intersex equality and human rights. Our priorities include providing non-binary gender and intersex people with legal recognition of their gender. A number of countries around the world now provide a third gender marker, usually an x, for people who don’t identity as either male or female, and we are eager to see this happen in the UK.

The needs of young trans and intersex people are still often not being met, making this another of our priority areas of work. Making sure that young people have access to appropriate consensual medical care, have their choices respected, and have their gender identities recognised, is something we will continue to campaign for.

We have spent many years working to bring about improvements in gender reassignment related healthcare, including the NHS Scotland gender reassignment protocol which was published in July 2012. Going forward, we must now ensure that the protocol is fully implemented and improved where necessary, so that access to quality healthcare is a reality for all trans people in Scotland.

Nathan Gale is the Development Officer at the Scottish Transgender Alliance

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