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GLUM members of faith groups in Scotland, who have been vigorously campaigning against proposed gay marriage legislation, reacted with alarm and paranoia yesterday when Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, published a gay marriage bill – one that is more open and flexible than the new equal marriage laws in England and Wales.

Opponents of the reform, Scotland for Marriage, said the governments had

Demonstrated renewed contempt for the consultation process.

By volume, according to the Guardian, most responses during the consultations were opposed to gay marriage – 64 percent of the 62,000 responses were against it, but most of those were generated by postcard and internet petition campaigns orchestrated by religious groups; of the individual submissions on the Scottish government website, the vote was 65 percent in favour – a finding broadly in line with opinion polls.  

Scotland for Marriage whinged:

The whole affair is an onslaught against the family, and the SNP is riding roughshod over the views of the majority of ordinary people.

They are guilty of pursuing dogma at the expense of debate and they demonstrate utter contempt for the democratic process in their unbridled pursuit of political correctness as they pander to the whims of a small minority with a loud voice.

The SmF campaign also claimed teachers could end up being sacked for refusing to teach gay history lessons.

The Free Church of Scotland spoke of:

Another step in the destruction of marriage as well as parenthood.

It also blethered about:

Encouraging the existence of fatherless or motherless children.

Rev David Robertson, Free Church minister in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, said:

The Scottish Government is rushing into a major social change without thinking through the consequences.

But clergy, choirs and others involved in organising church weddings in Scotland will be allowed to opt-out of taking part in same-sex marriages if it goes against their conscience.

However, the opt-out will not extend to commercial operations such as hotels or other groups involved in weddings, including chauffeurs.

It means even if a particular church or belief group chooses to take part in gay marriages, individual celebrants will still be allowed to opt-out if it goes against their personally held beliefs.

Campaigners let off colourful balloons and celebrated the launch outside the Scottish Parliament with Health Secretary Alex Neil.

They were joined by couples who are eager for MSPs to pass the laws so they can be allowed to marry legally, supportive church ministers and Holyrood politicians.

Neil said:

This is a historic moment for Scotland and for equal rights in our country. We are striving to create a Scotland that is fairer and more tolerant, where everyone is treated equally. That is why we believe same sex couples should be allowed to marry.

A marriage is about love, not gender. And that is the guiding principle at the heart of this bill. At the same time, we also want to protect freedom of speech and religion, and that's what the bill sets out to do. That is why it will be up to the religious body or individual celebrant to decide if they want to perform same sex marriages and there will be no obligation to opt in.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all welcomed the publication of the bill.

Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, said:

After many years of campaigning for equal marriage we are delighted the bill has today started its journey into law. We hope our MSPs will stand by the values of equality and social justice the Scottish Parliament was founded on and vote to pass this bill with the strong majority it deserves. Thirty-three years ago Scotland finally decriminalised homosexuality, today the large majority of Scots agree it's time LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people were granted full equality under the law.

One couple outside the parliament, Jaye, 48, and Ruth Richards-Hill, 44, from Glasgow, said:

The launch of the equal marriage bill means so much to us as a couple. As our friends marry, many of them in a church, we stand on the sidelines like second-class citizens who are forbidden from joining the party.

If the bill is passed, Scotland's first gay weddings could take place in 2015.

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