Scotland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage
Scotland's parliament passed a bill Tuesday that allows same-sex couples to legally tie the knot, the BBC reports.
Lawmakers approved the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill in a landslide 105-18 vote. The country's government said the move was the right thing to do, even though Scotland's two main churches were against the measure.
The BBC notes that the first same-sex wedding could take place as early as this fall. Religious and belief bodies can "opt in" to host gay weddings and officials said the religious community would not be forced to hold same-sex ceremonies in churches.
Northern Ireland is now the only country in the United Kingdom that has not yet legalized same-sex marriage, STV News reports.
"This is a historic moment for equality in Scotland," Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil said, soon after the vote was passed. "I am proud that the Scottish Parliament has taken this progressive and hugely important decision in favor of equal rights in our country. It is right that same sex couples should be able to freely express their love and commitment to each other through getting married. Marriage is about love, and that has always been at the heart of this issue."
"That was the clear message from Scotland's Parliament today. We must no longer allow same sex couples who wish to get married to be barred from doing so," Neil continued. "Thanks to this bill, same sex couples now have the same access to marriage -- one of our most important institutions -- as everyone else. There has been overwhelming support for this Bill from the beginning and many MSPs from across the political spectrum have expressed considered, personal opinions.
The measure also allows same-sex couples in civil partnerships to convert their unions to marriages.
Scotland is the 19th country in the world to legalize gay marriage.