[JURIST] The Scottish government announced Wednesday that it plans to bring forward a draft bill that will recognize same-sex marriages [JURIST backgrounder] with the same legal rights belonging to married heterosexual couples in the country. The measures are expected to be passed [Guardian report] by the Scottish Parliament [official website] next year, and the first marriages could be held in 2015. Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships, but the new legislation will allow same-sex marriages in churches and in civil ceremonies. Churches and celebrants will have to join a public registry, protecting those religious figures and organizations who object to the performance of a same-sex marriage ceremony. Additionally the Home Office [official website] in London has stated it would be willing to amend the UK Equality Act [materials], which bans unfair treatment and helps achieve equal opportunities in the workplace and society, to protect any individual celebrant or clergy member who objects to their organization’s decision to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Scottish government received a record 77,508 responses from citizens [BBC report] in a government consultation and found 65 percent support for the measure, which also has the support of all the party leaders in Parliament and a majority of Scottish National party backbenchers. The legislation is vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church, which worked with senior Muslim organizations, evangelical churches and Presbyterian churches to organize a huge postcard and internet petition campaign against the proposals.
Same-sex marriage remains a controversial issue throughout the world. Last week the Liberian Senate [official website] passed a bill prohibiting same-sex marriage [JURIST report] in the country, making it a second-degree felony subject to a fine or a short term of imprisonment. In recent weeks four petitions have been filed with the US Supreme Court [official website] challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], which precludes the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages regardless of their legality in the state in which they are performed. Last week an elderly New York woman petitioned the Court to expedite her DOMA challenge, which was successful in obtaining a ruling from US District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) [official website] that DOMA is unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The week before, a lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] in a DOMA challenge that seeks to achieve for gay and lesbian couples the same federal immigration rights afforded to heterosexual couples [JURIST report] under the Immigration and Nationality Act [materials]. Also last week 132 members of the US House of Representatives [official website] filed an amicus brief [JURIST report] arguing that statutory classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to heightened judicial scrutiny, and that DOMA should be overturned as unconstitutional under any level of judicial scrutiny. The brief was filed in the appeal of Karen Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, the landmark case in which the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] also ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional [JURIST report].