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Scotland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. (Photo: Martin Pettitt)

Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. (Photo: Martin Pettitt)

Scotland has become the world’s 17th nation to achieve LGBT marriage equality after its parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

BBC reports the Scottish Parliament voted 105-18 in favor of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Scotland’s government, which will hold a referendum on independence from Great Britain this fall, said passing the same-sex marriage legislation would further the cause of equality for all.

Alex Neil, Scotland’s health secretary, said the move affirmed “a 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.

Religious organizations and an assortment of conservatives groups and individuals opposed the bill. The Church of Scotland claims the legislation will fundamentally change the meaning of marriage. The Evangelical Alliance Scotland called the measure a “legal fiction” and a “blow to society.”

“At a time in Scotland when we are considering what kind of nation we want to live in, this legislation sends all the wrong signals about the place of marriage and family in modern-day Scotland,” Evangelical Alliance spokesman Fred Drummond told Christian Today.

Religious groups feared being forced to perform gay marriages, but the legislation contains an amendment stating that no one shall be “compelled by any means” to solemnize such unions. Same-sex marriages may occur anywhere agreed upon by the couple and the registrar, with the exception of religious premises.

Gay Scots and LGBT rights advocates hailed the bill’s passage.

“This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offense until 1980,” Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, said in a statement.

The Scottish vote follows the passage last year of a similar measure affecting England and Wales. Scotland’s parliament devolved from Britain’s in 1999. Same-sex marriages are set to begin at the end of next month in England and Wales.

The 16 other nations that have legalized same-sex marriage are: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay. Parts of the United States and Mexico have also legalized gay marriage.

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