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Scotland poised to legalize same-sex marriage with final vote this week

Sunday, February 2, 2014
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EDINBURGH, Scotland — Scotland’s could see its first same-sex marriages by July, as a bill to legalize marriage equality is expected to be passed overwhelmingly by Members of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will legalize civil and religious same-sex marriages, with an “opt-in” procedure for faiths and celebrants willing to conduct ceremonies and legal protection for those who object.

It also relaxes the rules on where civil marriages can take place, and establishes non-religious or “belief” marriage ceremonies.

Tuesday marks the third and final stage of the same-sex marriage bill in parliament. The bill was approved in principle in November, when 98 voted in favor, 15 objected and five abstained, suggesting overwhelming support this week.

The Herald Scotland reports that putting it into effect will require help from the UK Government, as equality law reserved to Westminster must also be amended to ensure Scottish celebrants cannot be forced to conduct ceremonies against their will.

As British MPs legalized same-sex marriages in England and Wales last year, observers say it should be relatively simple and uncontroversial to amend the law for Scotland.

A recent poll found a majority of Scotland’s population, 56 percent, support the legislation and marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The marriage equality law in England and Wales comes into effect on March 29.

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