MSPs endorse gay marriage bill

wedding cake The proposals still face several rounds of voting at parliament, before becoming law

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Legislation to introduce same-sex marriage in Scotland has been backed by the Holyrood committee looking into the proposals.

Most MSPs on the equal opportunities committee endorsed the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill.

But some members were either not convinced by the bill, or had concerns that it lacked adequate protections.

The legislation still needs to go through three stages of voting at parliament before becoming law.

Under the bill, religious bodies would opt in to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

In addition, protection would also be offered to individual celebrants who felt it would go against their faith to carry out gay weddings.

Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships, and the Holyrood government has insisted no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.

Full parliament

Both the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church are opposed to the proposals.

The convener of the equal opportunities committee, Labour MSP Margaret McCulloch, said: "All of us on the committee recognise the validity, depth and sincerity of all views submitted to us on what has clearly been an emotive issue.

"While the majority of our committee supports the general principles of this bill, we wholeheartedly support the right of all members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on the bill as a matter of conscience."

The Bill will now go to the full parliament for consideration.

Tom French, of the Equality Network charity, said backing the Bill would help remove discrimination from law.

"With just days to go before the crucial stage-one vote on the equal marriage Bill, we urge MSPs to stand up for a fairer and more equal Scotland by giving this milestone legislation their full support," he said.

"The large majority of people in Scotland believe it's time LGBT people had full equality, including the right to marry the person they love. This Bill will remove discrimination from the law and send out an important message about the kind of country we are."

'Real safeguards'

But campaign group Scotland for Marriage renewed its call for safeguards in the legislation to protect those opposed to it.

A spokesman said: "The Scottish government's promise of sufficient safeguards have been shown to be hollow.

"Real safeguards set out in amendments to the legislation are required to protect the rights and civil liberties of the majority of Scots who don't support this law.

"No one who supports the law as it stands should be discriminated against. At home in the workplace and in schools, declaring a belief in traditional marriage should always be permitted and respected."

In England and Wales, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed into law in July.

It is expected that the first gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies will take place by summer next year when the relevant statutory orders have been put in place.

The act will allow religious organisations to "opt in" to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.

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