Scotland politics

Mock gay marriage takes place outside Scottish Parliament

Jaye and Ruth Richards-Hill with well-wishers
Image caption Jaye and Ruth Richards-Hill were "married" in a service outside Holyrood

Gay rights campaigners have held a mock wedding outside Holyrood as a sign of support for same sex marriage.

The staged event comes ahead of the Scottish government making its views known on the issue.

Currently the law in Scotland, as in the the rest of the UK, allows civil partnerships between couples of the same sex.

In the Scottish Parliament, the party leaders are united in support of a change to the law.

Although civil partnerships offer the same legal treatment as marriage across a range of matters, such as inheritance, pensions provision, life assurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights, they are still distinct from marriage.

A man and a woman can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.

Outside the Edinburgh parliament, lesbians Jaye and Ruth Richards-Hill took part in a mock wedding conducted by Rev Jane Clarke of the same-sex marriage supporting Metropolitan Community Church.

The couple, who are Christians and were legally married in South Africa, said: "All we want is equality; the same rights as everyone else. The Scottish government must now lift the ban on same-sex marriage, or explain to couples like us why we deserve to be treated like second-class citizens."

After the ceremony, the women delivered a 10,000-signature petition and letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, urging the government to "announce equal marriage legislation without delay".

Strong opposition to same-sex marriage has come from churches, including the Roman Catholic church and the Church of Scotland.

Further consultation

Those against gay marriage are also continuing to lobby against a change to the law.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the most senior Catholic in Scotland, said bishops would drum up funds on a so-called Support Marriage Sunday earmarked for 26 August.

He told the Sunday Times: "We will use this opportunity to remind Catholics of the importance of marriage as a union of a man and a woman and to urge them to be generous in contributing to a special collection which will be used to support initiatives in defence of marriage."

The SNP government conducted a 14-week consultation into the issue. When it closed in mid-December, more than 60,000 responses had been sent.

On launching the consultation, the government stated that it "tends towards the view" that same-sex marriage should be introduced, but that faith groups and their celebrants should not be forced to solemnise the ceremonies.

If the government decides to legislate, there would be a further consultation on a draft bill, and a finalised bill could be introduced into the Scottish Parliament in 2013.

If legislation is not forthcoming, the Equality Network has indicated that it would work to secure a Member's Bill.

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