QUEEN Elizabeth II has signed same-sex marriage into law in Scotland, meaning couples could start tying the knot by year’s end.

The Queen granted Royal Assent to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill last Wednesday (March 13) after Scotland’s parliament voted in favour last month.

The new laws also benefits trans* people who will now be able to remain married following gender reassignment.

Following parliament’s passing of the bill, Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, said he was proud Scotland had made the decision to embrace equal rights: “A decision that will resonate beyond our borders and will place Scotland in the vanguard of nations committed to equality for all.”

A survey conducted by the Scottish Government found 72 per cent of Scots supported same-sex marriage.

The Scottish Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland both opposed the move and the new laws do not compel anyone to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies if it goes against their religious beliefs.

With the first same-sex marriage ceremonies due to take place in England and Wales on March 29, and Scotland following suit later in the year, Northern Ireland is looking increasingly isolated on the issue.

The first civil partnership ceremony in the UK took place in Belfast in 2005. However, since then, little progress has been made on marriage equality with no legislation before Northern Ireland’s assembly. This is despite a survey from researchers at Queen’s University Belfast that showed over half the nation’s 1.8 million residents are in favour of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, MPs in Lithuania have voted down laws widely regarded as an assault on the LGBTI community.

Compared to Russia’s much-criticised anti-gay propaganda laws, the proposals would have banned gay pride parades in the Baltic state and European Union member, as well as pubic speeches in support of LGBTI rights and gay rights campaign materials.

The debate in the country’s parliament in Vilnius turned colourful at times. According to GayStarNews, Order and Justice Party MP Petras Gražulis, accused politicians which didn’t support his bill of “not only changing their political orientation, but their sexual orientation as well,” while MPs opposed to the bill criticised Gražulis’ stance on family values following the break up of his own marriage.

While the bill was defeated, Gražulis’ party has a number of other proposals waiting in the wings including a bid to legalise vilification of LGBTI people.

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