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LONDON (AP) - The Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favor of a same-sex marriage bill, allowing the first such ceremonies to take place by the end of the year.

Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil called the bill's approval "one of the great historic days of the parliament." But some religious leaders criticized it as an assault on tradition.

The bill was passed Tuesday by 105 votes to 18. Under the bill, religious bodies in Scotland that wish to perform gay marriages can "opt in" to do so. Groups opposed to same-sex marriage cannot be forced to solemnize such unions.

Legislation to allow gay marriage in England and Wales was passed in July last year. The change does not apply to Northern Ireland.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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