Date Set For Same-Sex Weddings

Scotland will stage its first same-sex weddings this year as Health Secretary Alex Neil announced couples can tie the knot in marriage ceremonies from December 31.

Mr Neill said the move was an "important signal that our nation is absolutely committed to the same rights for all our citizens".

He added that Hogmanay would be "a proud and no doubt emotional day for many" and said: "I, for one, can't wait."

The announcement of the date for the first same-sex weddings in Scotland comes after Holyrood passed the Marriage and Civil Partnership Act earlier this year.

As well as allowing for same-sex couples to wed from December 31 onwards, those couples who are already in a civil partnership will be able to convert that to a marriage from December 16 onwards.

This can take place from an earlier date as a minimum notice period of 14 clear days is required for marriage ceremonies.

Couples who convert their civil partnership to a marriage in the first year of the legislation will not be charged to do so, the Scottish Government pledged.

Mr Neil said: "It is wonderful that same-sex couples can now begin to make plans to have their marriage just as any other couple can.

"This historic legislation had overwhelming support across the Scottish Parliament, demonstrating to the world how importantly Scotland views equality.

"That support means that, from 31 December, same-sex couples who want to show their love and commitment to each other could get married in front of family and friends at a ceremony they choose together."

The announcement was welcomed by equality campaigners, who have lobbied for same-sex couples to be allowed to get married.

Tom French, policy and public affairs coordinator for the Equality Network, said: "We are very pleased that after years of campaigning for equal marriage it is now just weeks away from becoming a reality.

"Today's milestone announcement means that same-sex couples across Scotland will be able to set a date and start planning their weddings. With the first ceremonies set to take place on Hogmanay, Scotland can be proud that we will bring in the new year as a fairer and more equal country."

He said December 31 2014 would be "a date that is remembered for many years to come, and a profoundly emotional day for those couples who celebrate their commitment to each other".

He also stressed the importance of the legislation for all Scottish lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people who "grew up in a country where being gay was still criminalised until 1981".

Mr French said: "Scotland is now a leader on LGBTI equality, with one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world. There is still more to do to ensure full equality in people's day-to-day lives, but this year we have taken a huge leap forward towards creating the fair and equal Scotland we all want to see."

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