In an exclusive interview, KaleidoScot talks with Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, ahead of equal marriage law coming into effect on Tuesday, about its historic significance.
From Tuesday 16 December same-sex couples can give a 15 days notice to marry, those in civil partnerships will be able convert to marriage, and couples with foreign same-sex marriages will be recognised as married in Scotland.
Scotland’s first same-sex marriages will officially start at a minute past midnight on 16 December. Couples in Scottish civil partnerships will have the option to convert to marriage through a free administrative process at registration offices across Scotland and at certain UK embassies abroad. Those wishing to get married can now give notice and will be able to get married from the 1st of January.
KaleidoScot: What, in your view, is the significance of marriage equality in Scotland?
Alex Neil: It is very important indeed because it is sending a loud and clear message that Scotland is a much more tolerant, modern and progressive society. Marriage for same-sex couples is now equal before the law as for mixed-sex couples, as it should be.
We are very pleased that same-sex couples that have registered in a civil partnership will be able from Tuesday the 16th of December to convert it to marriage, if they so choose to. This is of course about equality.
Marriage equality will also give a special significance to this year’s Hogmanay as same-sex couples will be able to get married for the first time, and that indeed is a cause for a celebration.
KaleidoScot: What in your view the message that Scotland’s marriage equality is sending?
Alex Neil: For the least 300 hundred years Scotland lead in terms of the enlightenment and progressive politics and policies, and this is sending a loud and clear message: this is still the case, we believe that same-sex couples should have exactly the same rights as mixed-sex couples in a modern society.
KaleidoScot: So now that Scotland is about to have marriage equality, what next in terms of LGBTI equality?
Alex Neil: We believe that rights of LGBTI people should be honoured, and I think we are making progress, and will continue to do beyond equal marriage.
In terms of education we have also introduced marriage equality into the Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education (RSHPE) guidance.
With regards to the guidance, I think we can recognise there are a widespread differing religious views on this matter, with many faith groups very much in favour of LGBTI rights and others against.
In a tolerant society we have to cater for the needs of all views whenever you can and that is what we are doing.