Gay Marriage will be made legal in Scotland, the SNP government announced on Wednesday morning, after the Scottish government finally agreed the framework for legislation.
The Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement a week later than expected, after the Cabinet failed to hammer out the details at a meeting last Tuesday. As The Huffington Post revealed last week, calls by religious leaders in Scotland for there to be a national referendum on the issue were ruled out.
The expectation is that a draft Bill will be published later this year, but the SNP government has indicated that a UK-wide change to the Equality Act would be needed before any changes could be passed into law.
The SNP has also decided that if churches want to conduct gay marriages, they'll be allowed to do so. This aspect of the announcement will particularly annoy religious traditionalists, particularly the Catholic church in Scotland, which bitterly
opposes gay marriage.
The government at Holyrood says before any legislation is published there will be a "focused consultation with stakeholders", amid likely concerns about how those churches which don't want to conduct ceremonies will be protected.
Sturgeon said: ""We are 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 announcement comes on the same day as revelations surrounding the Archbishop of Glasgow, who suggested the late Labour MP David Cairns died young because he was gay.
The arguments over gay marriage in Scotland have become increasingly bitter in recent weeks, with claims that opinion polls have been biased in favour of the opposing sides in the debate. An Ipsos Mori poll carried out for the Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Youth Parliament suggested 64% of Scots favoured gay marriage.
A separate poll by ComRes for the Scotland for Marriage group suggested half of respondents wanted a referendum on the issue. That poll was attacked for being "flawed" by those wanting the law to be changed.
The Scottish government carried out a consultation on gay marriage which produced thousands of responses. The exact timetable of the legislation remains unclear, with reports suggesting the SNP might wait until the UK government in London outlines its own proposals for gay marriage.
There has been speculation that the SNP might not enact gay marriage in Scotland until the UK Equalities Act - which affects the entire country - is amended at Westminster, as part of the coalition's separate plans to legislate for gay weddings.
The Scottish government said on Wednesday: "We consider that an amendment to the UK Equality Act will be required. We will work with the UK Government to secure agreement to such an amendment before the formal introduction of a Bill to the Scottish Parliament and with a view to it being in place before the Bill comes into force."
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