Scotland's government announced plans to legalize same-sex marriages on Wednesday.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that legislation permitting the marriages would soon be introduced. If the legislation passes in 2013, the first marriages would likely occur in 2015.
The measure has backing from the major Scottish political parties and it follows a public consultation on the issue. But, according to the Glasgow-based Daily Record, of the over 77,000 people who responded during the consultation, nearly two-thirds opposed the change. Many religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland, are strongly against it.
If enacted, Scotland could become the first part of the UK to allow same-sex marriages.
Sturgeon also insisted that churches and others would not be required to conduct same-sex marriages. "It is the intention of the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation to legalise same-sex marriage," she said in an official statement. "We believe that in a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, as we do in Scotland, then this is the right thing to do.
"However, we recognise and respect the concerns that some people have expressed, in particular the concerns that have been expressed by the churches, and we're determined the legislation we bring forward will be accompanied by protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion."
The Church of Scotland issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to same-sex marriage. "We are concerned that the Scottish Government is rushing ahead on something that affects all the people of Scotland without adequate debate and reflection," said Rev Alan Hamilton, Convener of the Church of Scotland Legal Questions Committee.
"We will be scrutinising the proposed legislation very carefully. In particular we are concerned that the Government will legislate without being able to effectively protect religious bodies or their ministers whose beliefs prevent them from celebrating civil-partnerships or same-sex marriages," Hamilton added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.