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Scotland to legalize gay marriage, ahead of the rest of UK

Scotland's government has announced it will legalize gay marriage, making it the first part of the UK to do so.

Netherlands gay marriage 04 19 2011Enlarge
Jan van Breda (left) and Thijs Timmermans pose after their wedding, on April 1, 2011 in Amsterdam. The Netherlands celebrated the 10th anniversary of the world's first legally binding gay marriage with another set of nuptials. (Evert Elzinga/Getty Images)

Gay marriage will soon be legal in Scotland, the Scottish government has announced.

The move will make Scotland the first part of the UK to allow same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, the BBC said; in England and Wales, gay couples are are permitted only a civil partnership.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the government believed that the move was "the right thing to do." 

No religious body will be forced to conduct gay weddings against its will, however, Sturgeon said.

Within religious organizations that do decide to conduct them, individual members who oppose gay marriage will be protected by law from facing legal or disciplinary action, according to The Herald Scotland.

The main opposition to the reform has come from the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland, the BBC said. Other religious and humanist leaders told the Pink News website that they welcomed today's announcement.

Scotland's recent public consultation on the issue produced mixed results, The Guardian reported: of the online responses, 65 percent were in favor and 35 percent against. Yet when responses sent by mail and registered on petitions – the largest of which was coordinated by the Roman Catholic church and other conservative faith groups – were also factored in, 64 percent of respondents opposed gay marriage.

The Scottish government will present draft legislation to parliament later this year. Changing the law is likely to require cooperation from the UK government, which London is expected to provide.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that he wanted to see gay marriage legalized throughout the UK by 2015.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/120725/scotland-legalizes-gay-marriage