EDINBURGH, Scotland — The Scottish Parliament voted 98-15 Wednesday evening to advance legislation that would bring marriage equality to Scotland as early as March 2014.
Scottish lawmakers passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill on its first reading, sending it to Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee for consideration and debate along with any amendments offered by Members of Parliament.
The bill will the have a second reading in committee and, if passed, would advance to a third and final reading before a final vote by the full Parliament. Political observers in the capital tell LGBTQ Nation that could occur as early as next spring.
Once passed the bill then heads to the Queen Elizabeth for royal assent, and same-sex couples could begin marrying immediately afterwards.
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“Tonight the Scottish Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to back same-sex marriage and uphold the principle that we should all be equal under the law,” said Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network. “This vote is a huge step forward which will send out a strong message that LGBT people are equal and valued members of our society.”
“While there is still more work to do to improve the bill and ensure it becomes law, LGBT people across the country will be celebrating this significant milestone in the journey towards full equality,” he said.
Civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal in Scotland since 2005 — in line with the rest of the United Kingdom — and recent polling in the country find that a majority of Scots support the move to full marriage equality.
Article continues belowThe strongest opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage has come from both the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland, although a religious exemption in the measure allows religious organizations and members of the clergy to refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples.
Lawmakers who spoke against the measure argued that the bill’s religious exemptions weren’t strong enough and that the law’s premise would bring about the decline of modern moral society.
Earlier this year, British lawmakers approved a marriage equality bill for Britain and Wales. That measure has already received royal assent and same-sex couples there will be allowed marry beginning sometime in 2014.