Same-sex couples are celebrating in Scotland as the Scottish Parliament has passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, which legalizes same-sex weddings in the country.
It was a landslide victory for the bill, which passed with 105 votes in favor and just 18 against. Ministers of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), who were granted a free vote outwith party lines, further rejected amendments which aimed to include protection for those groups or individuals opposed to same-sex marriage. SNP MSP John Mason attempted to attach an amendment stating that no person would be "compelled by any means" to solemnize marriage between same-sex couples, but Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil insisted that it was unnecessary as the Bill already includes "robust protections for religious bodies and celebrants".
Mr Neil called the passing of the bil "a historic day in the history of the Scottish Parliament", while gay rights organizations have similarly lauded its success, including the Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland. Several religious groups have also championed the legislation, with Quakers stating they will allow ceremonies to take place on their premises, while Buddhists and the Pagan Federation have also shown support. The Church of Scotland has said that, while it opposes homophobia, the "wide spread of opinion" on gay marriage can be seen in its congregation.
However, for those religious groups or celebrants who do not support the bill, there will be no legal repercussions for refusing to conduct ceremonies, with protections against claims of discrimination. Religious groups that do wish to conduct ceremonies are free to do so, with the bill matching the "opt-in" status for religious groups in the Marriage Act which passed in England and Wales last year. Incidentally, the first same-sex marriages as a result of that legislation will take place from March 29.
There's also good news for any same-sex couples considering visiting Scotland -- during the Fringe festival, when the weather is a bit less grim, is very much advised from a cultural and comfort standpoint -- any same-sex marriages conducted overseas will be recognized in the country.
Today's vote leaves Nothern Ireland as the only territory in the United Kingdom to not have passed a same-sex marriage bill. Indeed, Northern Irish politicians aren't consulting on any legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, which could leave residents there at odds with the rest of the UK for quite some time.
The Scottish government states that it wants ceremonies to take place "as soon as possible", but hasn't given a specific time-frame yet for when couples can expect to wed.