Hooray! The Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favor of a same-sex marriage bill, allowing the first such ceremonies to take place by the end of the year.
Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil called the bill’s approval “one of the great historic days of the parliament.”
The Scottish government said passing the same-sex marriage bill was an important step for equal rights and paved the way for same-sex wedding ceremonies later this year.
Scotland will hold a referendum on independence from Britain in September, a referendum that at this point is expected to fail. (Although this doesn’t affect the gay marriage resolution, since England and Wales have already passed a similar resolution.)
The move was opposed by the Scottish Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, but the law will not compel religious institutions to hold ceremonies on their premises. Under the bill, religious bodies in Scotland that wish to perform gay marriages can “opt in” to do so. Groups opposed to same-sex marriage cannot be forced to solemnize such unions.
This awesome speech, by Conservative (yes, Conservative!) Scottish Member of Parliament Elizabeth Davidson, in the Scottish National Parliament, helped sway the vote:
The approval, in a vote of 105 to 18 in Scotland’s devolved parliament, follows similar legislation passed by the British parliament last year that allows same-sex marriage in England and Wales, with the first weddings to take place from March 29, 2014.
Scotland Health Secretary Alex Neil said it was “right that same sex couples should be able to freely express their love and commitment to each other through getting married.”
“Marriage is about love, and that has always been at the heart of this issue,” Neil said in a statement.
Gay campaigners said the vote was a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in Scotland and welcomed the Scottish government’s efforts to advance the approval from an expected time frame of 2015.
Currently in Scotland, same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships.
“This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980,” Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said in a statement.
The legislation to allow same-sex marriage first entered the Scottish parliament for debate in June last year despite opposition from church and other religious groups.
Opposition to the Law
Opposing the move, the Church of Scotland said same-sex marriage fundamentally changed marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.
The Evangelical Alliance Scotland described the move as “legal fiction” and a “blow to society” at a time when Scotland is about to vote in September on whether to split from the rest of Britain and become an independent country.
Legislation to allow gay marriage in England and Wales was passed in July 2013, but the fourth British country, Northern Ireland, has stated it does not intend to introduce same-sex marriage legislation.
The Club Keeps Getting Bigger
Scotland is among a growing number of countries that allow same-sex marriage. Here’s the current list:
England / Wales (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
South Africa (2006)
The Netherlands (2000)
In addition, gay marriage is legal in some parts of the country in Mexico (2009) and the United States (2003).
Welcome, Scotland, to the club that is willing to welcome everyone!
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