Gays to Have Equal Rights under Law

Daily Mail (London), March 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Gays to Have Equal Rights under Law


Byline: HAMISH MACDONELL

GAY couples will have the same legal status as heterosexuals under an overhaul planned for Scots Law.

MSPs and Ministers are developing reforms to give homosexuals and heterosexuals equal rights and responsibilities in a wide range of policy areas, from housing to inheritance law.

The proposals are at an early stage but a senior Scottish Executive source admitted 'we are moving in that direction'.

Members of Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee have discussed possible changes to the law and a leading expert in family law, Professor Kenneth Norrie, is drawing up a list of all the areas which need to be altered.

However, the planned changes drew an angry response from the Catholic Church and family values campaigners who claimed it was part of a militant homosexual agenda being pursued by the Scottish Executive.

The Executive has come under criticism for the past three months after its controversial decision to repeal Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Yesterday the Executive refused to put marriage above other relationships, insisting that Ministers supported 'stable family life' which can include lone parents, unmarried heterosexual couples and gay couples.

No concrete plans have yet been drawn up for the proposed overhaul, but support is growing among MSPs and members of the Cabinet for a full-scale review.

Proposals will either be put together by the Equal Opportunities Committee, which would then pilot them through parliament, or by Justice Minister Jim Wallace through the Scottish Executive.

The Scottish Executive insider said that Ministers wanted to make sure that Scots law did not fall foul of European Human Rights Law which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The aim of the changes would be to place gay couples on the same legal footing as non-married heterosexual couples.

Under existing Scots Law, non-married heterosexual couples have the status of being in a 'habit and repute' 0marriage if they have lived together for six months.

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