Scotland has thrown down the equality gauntlet and announced plans to become the first jurisdiction in Britain to allow same sex marriages.
If the bill passes through the Scottish parliament unhindered, gay couples would be able to legally wed as early as 2014. The declaration provoked an angry reaction from Catholic, evangelical and Presbyterian groups but was warmly welcomed by equality campaigners and the small number of religious congregations who wish to preside over gay weddings.
Same sex couples from south of the border would also be able to marry in Scotland, prompting speculation that Gretna Green's historical reputation as a runaway wedding destination could undergo something of a 21st Century renaissance.
It would be up to Westminster to decide whether such couples would be considered married or in civil partnerships once they return to England or Wales.
The decision to press ahead with same sex marriage legislation came after nearly 80,000 people responded to a government consultation on the issue – a record number of replies for Scotland. "We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal," said Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The announcement provoked a scathing response from those Christian and Muslim communities which lobbied against the proposals.
"The Scottish government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale," said a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland.
The legislation will include protections for churches who object to gay marriage. Those wanting to conduct gay religious ceremonies would have to opt in.Reuse content