Scotland, the small country that sits on top of England, has given the world many things, including television, refrigerators, the United States Navy, penicillin, Forbes Magazine, hypnotism, the Buick Motor Company and golf (apologies for the latter). Now, though, it's giving something to the thousands of LGBT citizens who call the tartan nation home.
Today, Ministers of the Scottish Parliament voted on the first stage of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. The bill makes provisions for an Act of the Scottish Parliament which, if approved, will allow for the legalization of same-sex marriage. After a lengthy, heated debate between ministers -- who were given a free vote on the issue -- the Bill passed with 98 yes votes, 15 ministers voting against and 5 abstaining.
Among the Bill's many provisions are protections for the many religious groups that opposed the Bill, including the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church. Religious groups that wish to conduct same-sex marriages will have to opt-in -- it is not required for them to conduct ceremonies if it's against their faith, and same-sex couples cannot force a church to officiate their marriage. However, members of a church who have not opted-in to conducting same-sex ceremonies are allowed to carry out ceremonies if they personally support them.
There are further measures for other forms of marriage, including humanist ceremonies, to be established as a third form of marriage alongside religious and civil marriages. Similarly, transgender people who are already married will no longer be required to divorce their partner and remarry them following an official change in gender. The Bill will also provide amended guidance for same-sex marriage and the teaching of the issue in schools. Scotland will now also recognise same-sex marriages conducted in the rest of the UK and overseas.
There are still three stages of voting before the Bill becomes an Act and is enshrined in law, but with popular support and majority support in the Parliament, the likelihood of same-sex marriage being legalized is now all but certain.