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Scotland: By large majority MSPs vote to move forward gay-marriage bill

Measure garnered 98 supporters, while 15 lawmakers voted against it

Scotland's health secretary, Alex Neil, urged parliamentarians to support the gay-marriage bill prior to the vote. Credit:

By a vote of 98 to 15, with five abstaining, members of the Scottish Parliament threw their support behind gay-marriage legislation, The Scotsman reports.

The measure is now expected to move to a second vote, with a possible third vote following in 2014, Pink News says

Alex Neil, health secretary in the ruling Scottish National Party, reiterated his stance that the measure ensures that Scotland will further promote equality, even as it respects the viewpoint of those who oppose gay marriage. 

According to a Daily Record report, the bill includes what is described as an opt-in clause for religious groups that want to perform same-sex ceremonies, a feature similar to that contained in the gay-marriage bill passed in England and Wales in July. Further, even if a religous group decides to opt in, there are safeguards for celebrants within that group should they express opposition to conducting gay couples' ceremonies. Other MSPs, including the Scottish Labour Party's Elaine Smith and the SNP's John Mason, do not believe the protections adequately protect religious and free-speech rights.