Scotland has now joined the global movement to legalise gay marriage today as a bill passed in the Scottish parliament by 105 votes to 18.
Though homosexuality was still a criminal offence in the country until 1980, Scotland has now emerged to have “one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world,” said Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, earlier today.
Despite a number of attempts by up to 21 MSPs (Member of the Scottish Parliament), largely those who are practicing Catholics and Baptists, to introduce amendments providing extra protection for religious celebrants who opposed the new law, the bill was passed as written. Scotland’s two main churches, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic church, have unsurprisingly, opposed the reform. They have been joined by a number of other faiths. Before the vote was due to take place, a petition organised by the multi-faith Scotland for Marriage is said to have had more than 54,000 signatures. This was further supported by a group of more than 50 ministers and church officials who wrote to the government to express their “deep concern” regarding the bill.
The health secretary, Alex Neil addressed the MSPs’ concerns stating that there were already “robust protections” in place for those that opposed the law. Religious bodies have to formally opt in to the legislation to be allowed to carry out same-sex weddings. However, individual celebrants are still allowed to refuse to marry a couple even if their church introduces same-sex marriage, under the UK Equalities Act.
Following the bill’s successful passing, Scottish Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw described the mood within Holyrood as “celebratory”. He went on to say, “There has been a huge change in my lifetime, from the brutal atmosphere that existed in respect of gay people when I was a teenager and a young man. But I regard today as a fantastic, celebratory change in the mood, style, signature and stamp of my country, Scotland.”
Neil echoed the beliefs of a number of people around the world, “We have always maintained at the heart of this issue there is one simple fact: a marriage is about love. All couples in Scotland in a loving relationship must know that they have the same rights and responsibilities and, regardless of their gender, the same opportunity to get married.”
Scotland will become the 17th country to introduce same-sex marriage. It is expected that the first same-sex wedding could take place in October of this year.
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