A majority of presbyteries has supported draft legislation to permit Church of Scotland ministers and deacons to marry same-sex couples if they wish to do so.
Following a decision by the General Assembly 2021, the matter was sent down to presbyteries under the terms of the Barrier Act 1697. Presbyteries were asked for their views on draft legislation, with safeguards in accordance with s.9 (1A) of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977. The Solemnisation of Same-Sex Marriage Overture has received sufficient support to be presented for enactment at the General Assembly 2022: 29 presbyteries approved the Overture and 12 voted against: details here.
Commissioners to the hybrid General Assembly in Edinburgh next month will be asked to consider approving the Overture to change the current law to enable ministers and deacons to apply to become authorised celebrants. Under the proposals, no person will be required to solemnise or be involved in the arrangements for a same-sex marriage unless he or she explicitly wishes to do so.
Under the terms of the proposed legislation, an individual will have to apply to the Principal Clerk’s office to become a celebrant and an application will then be made to the Registrar General for Scotland on that person’s behalf. The Principal Clerk will maintain an up-to-date record of celebrants, and celebrants will be personally responsible for renewing their status every three years. Only parish ministers who have become celebrants will be permitted to use a church building in their charge for the solemnisation of same-sex marriages, but they will be able to give consent for other celebrants to use the building for that purpose.
All celebrants will be expected to take account of the “peace and unity and pastoral needs of the congregation and any parish or other grouping of which it is a part” when considering conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony.
On the assumption that Commissioners to the 2022 General Assembly will vote in favour of the Overture, the Legal Questions Committee proposes to produce guidance to accompany the amended Church law. [With thanks to David Bradwell.]