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Church asks for space as it considers same sex marriages

Same sex marriage is one step closer in Scotland. The Government north of the border has published the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill which is looking to change the law to allow gay couples to marry. Much like the proposals for England and Wales, the Bill looks to offer protection to churches and members of the public who feel it goes against their religious beliefs. Despite asking the public to take part in a consultation on the issue last year, the Government wants people to again give their responses to the Bill in its current form. The Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee has issued a 'call for evidence' which will close in August.

Committee Convener Mary Fee MSP said:

"It is the Committee's role to scrutinise this bill, and the call for evidence we have issued today starts that process.

"Those who wish to respond to the call for evidence can do so via our website or by writing directly to us at the Scottish Parliament, before 23 August.

"We are well aware of the strong views on all sides of the debate surrounding the Bill and the Committee wants to ensure that as many people as possible are made aware of what the Bill proposes and have the opportunity to submit their views."

John Mason is a Christian and the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston. He told Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour it's important Christians use this opportunity to voice their opinions.

The proposals are opposed by many Church groups in Scotland while almost fifty thousand people have signed a petition on the website. The Church of Scotland has voiced concerns over the Bill but says it will now consider its response.

Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church of Scotland's Legal Questions Committee said:

"As politicians consider the bill, the Church of Scotland asks for space for itself and for its ministers to decide whether to celebrate same sex marriages.

"We seek similar freedoms for all people of faith and particularly for others, such as teachers or local authority registrars, who fear that they will be expected to support same sex marriage as part of their jobs contrary to their genuinely held beliefs.

"The Church will continue to be a constructive voice in the national debate. We will consider the details of the bill carefully and we await clarification on key issues such as education.

"As a national Church which cares for all the people of Scotland, we repeat our conviction that homophobia is profoundly wrong.

"We are committed to sharing the love of God with all, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs."

It could still be some time before the Bill comes into existence. Much like the process in Westminster, politicians will debate and vote on the issue. Meanwhile, the plans for England and Wales are still being debated. Peers have been going through the details before having a final vote and sending the Bill back to the Commons for final approval. It's understood the first same sex marriage could take place before the next General Election in 2015.

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