Scotland plans to become the first part of the United Kingdom to legalize gay marriage.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said plans are in place to bring forward the legislation. As it stands now, same-sex couples in Scotland may enter into civil partnerships that contain the same legal provisions as marriage, but are still viewed as distinct.
Almost 80,000 people took part in a consultation with the Scottish government on the issue, and the responses prompted government action when 65 percent supported the legalizing of gay marriage. BBC reports, however, that when postcard and petition responses were counted, nearly 64 percent opposed the measure.
AFP reported that the legislation will make concessions of a sort to the religious community, such as the Catholic Church in Scotland, by adjusting equality laws to make sure religious institutions cannot be compelled to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.
A draft of the bill will be published later this year. Same sex marriages will not be conducted in Scotland prior to 2015.
“We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships — we believe that this is the right thing to do,” Sturgeon told BBC. “The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.”
Not everyone is convinced the government has the consciences of those who oppose the measure on religious grounds in mind.
“We are concerned the government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages,” Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Church of Scotland legal questions committee, told BBC.
Scotland is something of a pioneer in this movement, though the United Kingdom’s government is working on changes to civil union laws that could allow gay couples to marry in England and Wales by 2015 as well.
(Photo of Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by Scottish Government)