Scottish church becomes first in Britain to allow same-sex marriages

LONDON:  Same-sex couples will be able to marry in some churches in Scotland after religious authorities on Thursday agreed to change texts stating marriage is between a man and a woman, the first such move for a major Christian church in Britain.

At the general synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, over two-thirds of each house of bishops, clergy and laity voted in favour of the change.

Britain legalised same-sex marriage in 2014 but no major Christian church had so far allowed same-sex weddings.

This opens the way for gay Christians from any Anglican Church to marry in Scotland - but puts the Scottish church at odds with the rest of the world's Anglican community.

"This is a momentous step," David Chillingworth, head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, told the gathering after the vote.

"By removing gender from our marriage canon, our church now affirms that a same-sex couple are not just married but are married in the sight of God."

The approval of same-sex marriage by the church was praised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups.

"This step allows couples to celebrate their love within their faith and sends a really positive message to other LGBT people, both here and around the world," Colin Macfarlane, director of LGBT charity Stonewall Scotland, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It signals that members of the church welcome, recognise and respect LGBT people as part of the faith community."

Chillingworth said the ruling was not unanimous and no member of the clergy would be made to preside over same-sex weddings against their will.

The Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church opposed Britain's decision to allow same-sex marriages.

"This same decision is difficult and hurtful for others whose integrity in faith tells them that this decision is unscriptural and profoundly wrong," he said.

The wider Anglican communion, which has 85 million members worldwide and is headed by Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has been in crisis since 2003 because of arguments over sexuality and gender between liberal member churches in the West and their conservative counterparts, mostly in Africa.

The Anglican communion last year slapped sanctions on one of its liberal member churches in the United States, the Episcopal Church, for supporting same-sex marriage.