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Scotland: Gay-marriage bill up for parliamentary debate and vote

Bill set to move past first phase despite public and religious opposition

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond supports gay marriage. Credit:

Scotland's Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill reportedly has enough parliamentary support to make it through an imminent first vote, but religious leaders and the Scottish National Party's (SNP) John Mason say the push to pass it flies in the face of the public will, The Scotsman reports.  

But First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and Health Secretary Alex Neil, also of the SNP, are eager to see gay marriage legalized. Ahead of the Nov 20 debate, Neil called on members of the Scottish Parliament to throw their support behind the measure to "remove discrimination from the law," the Daily Record reports.

Saying he supported the right of members of Parliament to cast a vote of conscience on the matter, Neil pointed out that the legislation's provisions are tailored to address the concerns of those who oppose gay marriage, even as it extends marriage rights to gay people, the Record says.

According to the 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 also safeguards for celebrants within that group should they express opposition to conducting gay couples' ceremonies.   

But Mason says he's not satisfied that the protections go far enough, noting that there are others within the SNP who are not comfortable with the bill and that he'll most likely vote against it, The Scotsman says.

According to the report, Neil says the cabinet is in favour of the measure and will support it come voting time.