Same-sex marriage and the Church of Scotland

At its session today, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland approved proposals by 339 votes to 215 to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages to continue in ministry; however, the Kirk will not solemnise same-sex weddings in its churches.

Old_logo_of_the_CoS copy

The Overture amending the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships Act sent down to presbyteries by last year’s General Assembly under the Barrier Act had received sufficient support to be presented for enactment: 26 presbyteries approved the Overture, 18 opposed it and one was tied (which was taken to count as disapproval). The Committee on Returns to Overtures concluded that the definition should be amended to refer more directly to the civil law definition. The Committee believed that such a change would bring increased clarity to the Overture and consistency to the definitions of same-sex marriage and civil partnership in the Overture, because both would then be defined by reference to the civil legislation.

The text of the Overture, as amended by the Committee, is as follows:


The General Assembly, with the consent of a majority of Presbyteries, hereby enact and ordain that the Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships Act (Act I 2015) shall be amended as follows:

  1. In the title of the Act and wherever the Act is referred to, after ‘Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnerships’, insert: ‘and Same Sex Marriages’
  2. Insert new section 1(i):

(i) ‘same sex marriage’ shall mean a marriage between persons of the same sex which is recognised in terms of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

and renumber accordingly.

  1. In section 2(1), after ‘human sexuality’ insert: ‘(including marriage)’
  2. Wherever ‘a civil partnership’ appears, insert thereafter: ‘or a same sex marriage’
  3. Add new section 8:

‘8. Nothing in this Act implies that the Church permits or will permit its ministers or deacons to register civil partnerships or solemnise same sex marriages.’

and renumber accordingly.”

The Church subsequently issued a press statement explaining the decision.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Same-sex marriage and the Church of Scotland" in Law & Religion UK, 21 May 2016,

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