EDINBURGH, Scotland — The Scottish government on Wednesday announced plans to advance legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, despite opposition by two-thirds of citizens responding to an official government consultation which produced a record 77,508 responses.
In an official statement announcing its intent, the government said that the “legislation will be accompanied by important protections for freedom of speech and religion.”
Same-sex couples in Scotland currently have the option to enter into civil partnerships, and in a statement, Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, insisted that no part of the religious community would be forced to hold same-sex weddings in churches.
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“We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships. We believe that this is the right thing to do,” said Sturgeon, in the announcement.
“We are also mindful of the fact that the leaders of all of the other parties represented in parliament support same sex marriage and that there is significant parliamentary support for legislation.
“However, we are also deeply committed to freedom of speech and religion. The concerns of those who do not favour same sex marriage require to be properly addressed. It is therefore right that the next step in this process will be to consult stakeholders on any provisions that may be required, in either statute or guidance, to protect these important principles and address specific concerns that have been expressed.
“The Scottish Government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.”
While only 36 percent of respondents in the consultation indicated they supported marriage equality for same-sex couples, Sturgeon countered that other surveys showed a majority are in favor.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said, “the Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale,” reported the BBC.
Article continues below“We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships,” said the spokesman.
Sturgeon indicated that the first same-sex marriage are likely to take place by the start of 2015.
The United Kingdom, which is also consulting on changing the status of civil ceremonies to allow gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales to get married, wants to make the change by 2015 as well.