A LAW allowing same-sex couples to marry tonight passed its first key test at the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs backed the change in principle with a 98-15 vote, and five abstentions, after a debate which underlined fundamental divisions between supporters and opponents.
The Scottish Government hailed the endorsement as an important step forward.
But some politicians, including SNP members, were among those voicing concerns that the move fails to recognise the rights of faith groups who oppose the state’s interference in changing the definition of marriage.
Some raised fears they will be targeted for their opposition – with one Labour MSP saying it had been suggested she be burned at the stake as a witch.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “In a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, this is the right thing to do.
“It is encouraging we have secured the support of Parliament at stage one of the Bill and that we have agreed the general principles.
“It is an important step on the journey but we will continue to work closely with the Parliament as the Bill goes forward.
He tried to reassure critics that safeguards have been built in.
Under the terms of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, religious bodies will have to opt in to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Scottish ministers reached an agreement with the UK Government to amend the Equality Act to ensure protection can be offered to individual celebrants who feel it would go against their personal faith to carry out gay weddings.