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Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014

Section 5: Same sex marriage: further provision

33.This section makes provision relating to the introduction of same sex marriage and its effect on certain aspects of Scots law.

34.Subsection (1) makes provision in respect of permanent and incurable impotency. In Scotland, a marriage is voidable (i.e. a court action may be raised to challenge and end the marriage) if one of the parties is at the time of the marriage permanently and incurably impotent in relation to the other spouse. Subsection (1) provides that this rule of law only applies to opposite sex marriages.

35.Subsection (2) amends section 1 of the Divorce (Scotland) Act 1976 (“the 1976 Act”). Under the 1976 Act, there are two grounds of divorce in Scotland:


irretrievable breakdown of the marriage;


the issue, after the date of marriage, to either party of an interim gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

36.Section 1(2) of the 1976 Act provides a number of ways in which the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage can be established. One of those ways is adultery. Adultery means in the common law sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.

37.Subsection (2) provides that “adultery” has the same meaning for the purposes of the 1976 Act for same sex marriage as it does for opposite sex marriage in that it relates to heterosexual intercourse only. This means that a spouse in a same sex marriage could, like a spouse in an opposite sex marriage, raise an action for divorce saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably because the other spouse in the marriage has committed adultery (i.e. had sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex).

38.However, subsection (2) does not extend adultery to cover sexual activity between people of the same sex. Therefore, the ways of establishing irretrievable breakdown of a marriage remain unchanged. Neither an opposite sex spouse nor a same sex spouse can raise an action for divorce saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably because the other party in the marriage has had sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. Instead, the divorce action would have to put forward other reasons for irretrievable breakdown, such as unreasonable behaviour.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Scottish Government to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills.


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