- (Photo: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)
Scotland's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to legalize same-sex marriage in the country in a 105 to 18 vote, despite objections from Scotland's main churches and Christian representatives in the government.
Scotland Health Secretary Alex Neil praised the vote and said that it was "right that same-sex couples should be able to freely express their love and commitment to each other through getting married," Reuters reported. "Marriage is about love, and that has always been at the heart of this issue."
Both the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Scottish Roman Catholic Church have opposed the legal change of the definition of marriage, according to The Guardian. Over 50 ministers and church officials had written to the government expressing "deep concern" before the vote took place.
Richard Lyle, a Scottish National Party Member of Scottish Parliament, argued that one main problem with legalizing same-sex marriage is that foster parents could be barred from taking in children if they declare their opposition to the practice.
"What is more likely, yet not less tragic, is that applicants with so-called traditional views on marriage will be put off applying in the first place, fearing they will be branded homophobic," Lyle stated.
SNP's John Mason also had an amendment rejected which called for recognizing that "a belief in marriage as a voluntary union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society."
Mason explained: "This has been the prevailing view in Scotland for centuries, and may now be considered a minority view or even old fashioned, but it is an integral tenet of faith for many Christians, Muslims and others as well as the belief of many of no faith position at all."
Scotland is now set to become the 17th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. In July 2013, Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II officially approved the practice in England and Wales, despite heavy church opposition.
Gay rights activists have praised Tuesday's vote, with Tom French of the Equality Network calling it a "profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offence until 1980."
"Scotland can be proud that we now have one of the most progressive equal marriage bills in the world, and that we've sent out a strong message about the kind of country we are," he added.
The legislation has been opposed by Scotland's minority Christian groups as well, however, with Evangelical Alliance Scotland calling the move a "blow to society."
"Marriage has now been effectively privatized to privilege adult choice and the changes have stripped husband and wife of their obvious meaning. At a time in Scotland when we are considering what kind of nation we want to live in, this legislation sends all the wrong signals about the place of marriage and family in modern day Scotland," said Fred Drummond, director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland.
Northern Ireland is now the last remaining U.K. country without legalized same-sex marriage.