Scotland appears poisted to become the first part of the UK to introduce marriage equality now that ministers have announced a plan to bring a bill to parliament later this year.
The announcement follows a call for public input that, according to the BBC, “had the biggest response of any Scottish government consultation.”
“There were 77,508 responses in total, with 14,779 from outside Scotland,” reported the news agency. “Some 64% of those who responded [including postcard and petition responses] said they were against same-sex marriage. Excluding postcard and petition responses to the consultation from within Scotland the outcome shows 65% were in favor and 35% against.”
The announcement was firmly opposed by the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland. Ministers said they would take steps to include protections for religious beliefs, including the rights of clergy to refuse to perform ceremonies and the “protection of religious beliefs of teachers and parents in schools,” the BBC reported.
“The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages and we reiterate that today,” said deputy first minister Nicole Sturgeon. “Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.”
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland used especially bitter language to describe the proposal, calling it a “dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.”
"We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships,” said the spokesman.
The earliest same-sex wedding ceremonies could take place is 2015, according to the BBC. Scotland currently has a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, but critics say the legal unions are not equal to marriage. The government in England and Wales is currently considering a proposal to change the law from civil partnerships to allow marriage equality.