Gay marriage legalised in Scotland

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Scotland has become the 17th country in the world to legalise gay marriage after a historic vote at Holyrood.

The first same-sex weddings in Scotland could take place as soon as October after MSPs voted by a majority of 87 to legalise gay marriage.

The vote, passed by 105 to 18, came after the Scottish Parliament voted down several attempts to amend the bill to add extra protections for religious celebrants who opposed the new law.

Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said: “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.”

He added: “Scotland can be proud that we now have one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world, and that we’ve sent out a strong message about the kind of country we are.”

There were, however, some serious reservations among parliamentarians, with perhaps some of the strongest criticisms coming from SNP MSP John Mason, who tabled a series of amendments, including one calling for recognition that “a belief in marriage as a voluntary union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

He said: “This has been the prevailing view in Scotland for centuries, and may now be considered a minority view or even old fashioned, but it is an integral tenet of faith for many Christians, Muslims and others as well as the belief of many of no faith position at all.”

Opponents of the measures fear that equalities legislation could be used to force public servants such as registrars or schoolteachers to support gay marriage.

Christian MSPs pressed for clauses stating “for the avoidance of doubt” that marriage is “between one man and one woman”. They believe churches could be refused funding or council buildings if they are known to oppose same-sex marriage.

However, as well as the main bill, Scottish ministers have also reached an agreement with the UK government for an amendment to the 2010 Equality Act.

The move aims to protect individual religious celebrants, who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages, from the threat of court action claiming discrimination.

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