Following a vote at the 2022 General Assembly, Church of Scotland ministers and deacons who choose to do so may marry same-sex couples.
The General Assembly voted 274 to 136 to change a standing church law to allow the right to apply to become an authorised celebrant to conduct same-sex ceremonies. The vote came after a majority of presbyteries (29) approved the "Solemnisation of Same Sex Marriage Overture", which was sent to the presbyteries for consideration under the Barrier Act. Twelve presbyteries voted against approval.
Only those who choose to participate in the solemnisation of, or be involved in the arrangements for, a same-sex marriage will do so - it is not a requirement.
Under the terms of the legislation, an individual must apply to the Principal Clerk's office to become a celebrant. An application would then be made to the Registrar General for Scotland on their behalf.
The Principal Clerk will maintain an up-to-date record of celebrants and they would be personally responsible for renewing their status every three years.
The Church's Legal Questions Committee is producing guidance to assist in the practical operation of Church law.
It will be prepared in consultation with the Faith Nurture Forum and the Theological Forum and issued to presbytery clerks, from whom a copy may be requested.
The Faith Nurture Forum will produce a suggested liturgy for celebrants to use to bless same-sex marriages.
History of the decision
In May 2018 The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee of the Church of Scotland to prepare this legislation. It was supposed to be brought to the General Assembly in 2020, but the cancellation of the GA due to the COVID-19 outbreak meant it had to be pushed back a year.
In May 2021 The General Assembly voted 319 to 217 to approve draft legislation that would allow ministers of Word and Sacrament and deacons to marry same-sex couples if they wish. The legislation included safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.
The legislation was then passed to presbyteries for further consideration. This was due to the Barrier Act, which requires the General Assembly to consult the Church widely when making signifcant changes in laws relating to how the Church of Scotland operates.