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in brief: Scotland and Illinois step up for marriage equality

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Last night the Scottish Parliament voted 98 – 15 to move a same-sex marriage bill forward to the parliamentary committee. Ministers told the BBC that the move was ‘the right thing to do.’

The bill passed on its first reading, allowing it to be moved to the Equal Opportunities Committee, where lawmakers will consider amendments before seeking a final vote from parliament. This is likely to happen in early 2014, meaning that if the bill passes, same sex couples could be marrying in Scotland next year.

‘This vote is a huge step forward which will send out a strong message that LGBT are equal and valued members of our society,’ said Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network which launched the United Kingdom’s first ever marriage equality initiative. ‘While there is still more work to do to improve the bill and ensure it becomes law, LGBT people across the country will be celebrating this significant milestone in the journey towards full equality.’

Although the majority of Scots support same-sex marriage, the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church remain opposed. If successful, a religious exemption in the bill would mean that religious organisations and clergymen could reject same-sex couples. In this case, religious organisations would need to ‘opt-in’ to perform the marriage.

The politicians, however, were more supportive. Health secretary Alex Neil stated that ‘this legislation does not in any way redefine our own marriage. What it does to is extend the eligibility of marriage.’

And it’s not just Scotland moving forward. Yesterday, the American state of Illinois signed the marriage equality bill. The signing ceremony featured speeches by politicians and a performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus.

‘We have never wanted special rights or extra rights,’ said Patrick Bova who can finally marry his partner. ‘We have just wanted to be equal.’

In an emotional celebration, residents of Illinois welcomed the new law. A special applause went to the couples who have been waiting over 50 years for the right to be married.

Governor Pat Quinn noted that Illinois is now in a position to be an example to the other states. It is hoped that this will be a small step in legalising same sex marriage across the nation.

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