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Same-sex marriage step closer as Holyrood committee backs bill

The Equal Opportunities Committee said MSPs should vote on the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill 'as a matter of conscience'.

Marriage: Referendum demanded over same-sex marriages.

Plans to legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland have moved a step further forward after they were backed by a Holyrood committee.

A majority of MSPs on the Equal Opportunities Committee said they supported the general aim of the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill.

A number of unnamed committee members are said to disagree with the proposed law on a point of principle.

Convener Margaret McCulloch said: "All of us on the committee recognise the validity, depth and sincerity of all views submitted to us on what has clearly been an emotive issue for all of our stakeholders.

"While the majority of our committee supports the general principles of this Bill, we wholeheartedly support the right of all members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on the Bill as a matter of conscience."

The Bill will now go to the full Parliament for consideration.

Tom French, of the Equality Network charity, said backing the Bill will help removed discrimination from law.

"With just days to go before the crucial stage-one vote on the equal marriage Bill, we urge MSPs to stand up for a fairer and more equal Scotland by giving this milestone legislation their full support," he said.

"The large majority of people in Scotland believe it's time LGBT people had full equality, including the right to marry the person they love. This Bill will remove discrimination from the law and send out an important message about the kind of country we are."

Campaign group Scotland for Marriage renewed its call for safeguards to be written in to the legislation to protect those whose beliefs conflict with same-sex marriage.

A spokesman said: "The Scottish Government's promise of sufficient safeguards have been shown to be hollow. Real safeguards set out in amendments to the legislation are required to protect the rights and civil liberties of the majority of Scots who don't support this law.

"No one who supports the law as it stands should be discriminated against. At home in the workplace and in schools, declaring a belief in traditional marriage should always be permitted and respected."

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