A new law allowing same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships has come into force in Scotland.
Same-sex couples have welcomed the change to the law
Gay and lesbian couples now have the same legal rights as married couples and can register for ceremonies to be held in 15 days' time.
The Civil Partnership Act ensures equality on matters including pension provision and inheritance.
Socialists and Greens welcomed "gay weddings" but the Catholic Church in Scotland underlined its opposition.
So far, an estimated 140 couples have registered their interest in a civil ceremony in Scotland.
John Stewart and his partner Neil Fletcher have campaigned for years for the radical legal and social reform.
Mr Stewart said: "I think it's very much that our relationships are of equal value with heterosexual relationships and that the state recognises the value of a relationship.
"I think that's a very important message."
Under the new rules, same-sex couples can register their partnership with the council and claim the same rights as a married couple.
Scottish Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, welcomed the change in the law but added that the fight to end bigotry against gay, lesbian and transgender people would continue.
He said: "Same-sex couples in Scotland have been waiting for decades for this legislation.
"At last our society will celebrate and recognise relationships on equal terms, proudly asserting that love is love, commitment is commitment, and family is family.
"Much has been achieved for social justice and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people's rights. But the social conservatism which is still present in society won't go away."
Scottish Socialist Party leader, Colin Fox, said he hoped gay and lesbian couples would not lose out under the law change.
He said: "The recognition of same-sex couples will have wide-reaching implications and while most of them are welcome, we support a phased transition of the new rules for benefit claimants in same-sex relationships.
"It would avoid the sudden loss of benefits and recognise the problems that exist for some couples in being 'out'."
But Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said: "The Scottish people must be aware that by the end of the year we will see the reality of marriage changed to the point that it is unrecognizable.
"We are indulging in an experiment which will always have huge social consequences.
"The Catholic Church teaches clearly that we, as individuals and a society, harm ourselves when we do not protect and promote the female-male lifelong relationship that we know as marriage."
What are your views on the new measures? Are you for or against the change? Perhaps you are in a same-sex relationship and plan to take advantage of the new law. We asked for your views.
The following represents the balance of opinions received.
I know Neil and John (in the article above) and how long they have been together, and I'm delighted that they now have the opportunity to have their relationship recognised in a similar way to me and my wife. Good luck to you both!
Keith Legg, Dalgety Bay, Fife
I feel a great sense of joy whussing through my veins. I am so glad that I can finally walk down the street hand in hand with my beloved without getting stared at like some sort of freak. Three times in the past month my windows have been smashed and I have had threatening letters sent to me through the post. What's wrong with being gay? I love him....
John B, Newton Stewart
Welcome though civil partnership is, it is not equality. Mixed sex couples have the choice of creating their legal status as a couple as a manifestation of their faith by having it conducted by a minister of religion. Similarly, they can choose not to if they have no faith. Same sex couples are denied this choice. For some same sex couples their faith is important to them and it is unjust and contrary to the European Convention for this opportunity to be excluded on the grounds of gender alone.
Stephen Harte, Edinburgh, Scotland
As a Scot now living abroad in a country wrongly seen as a sleaze country, even here they have the morals of a civilized place. Some comments are saying we are coming out of the dark ages. Correction, the UK is going head first back to the dark ages and quickly. I shudder to think what signal this sends to children, God help us.
Bob Young, Phattaya, Thailand
Sorry Darren Bradshaw, the UK is not the first, we were beaten to civil partnerships by the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and Vermont. And the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa are ahead of us in allowing full same-sex marriage. Civil partnerships are not equality, they are at best equivalence.
Anna Langley, Cambridge
As a gay woman in a very long term relationship, 28 years and counting, I feel touched by so much support - thank you! I'm not surprised by the few negative comments, it's only to be expected. I don't feel "immoral", "sick" or in need of "moral guidance". I feel strong, proud and am looking forward to our ceremony in March. Our close family and friends will be there to celebrate with us, they know we're not freaks and just want us to be safe, secure and happy!
Elaine, West Yorkshire
I have no problem with the new legislation. However, having lived in a heterosexual relationship for 20 years my general feeling is that same sex couples have more rights than myself and my partner. In my pension scheme if I died tomorrow my partner would not receive anything for me. Surely this cannot be right.
Andrew Harvie, Wishaw, Scotland
Scotland, you do us proud. I am a Kiwi but I am thankful for my Shetland grandmother, who taught all her grandchildren from an early age to value difference and equality. These values made it safe for me to be a valued person in my family and be gay. They also help shape the makings of a great society.
Doug, Tuscany, Italy
This law gives people who previously didn't have a choice, the chance to commit and better sustain a relationship. Gay couples being provided the same rights and opportunities as heterosexuals can surely only be a good thing. For too long the notion of promiscuousness has clouded the view of such relationships, now it's our turn to show the world serious commitment and love can exist between same sex couples. To those people who disagree with these changes due to homophobia, well all I can say is that your ignorance is a mixed blessing, one day you may come to terms with the reality you live in. As for religious intolerance, well first of all I have to agree that the term "Marriage" not be used in social ceremony context. People's religious beliefs should be respected, however, I think those individuals speaking out against homosexuals should ask themselves if they really have the right to cast judgement on others. Someone who sees themself as a true patron to God would not go against some of the most fundamental principles regarding bigotry and prejudice.
Why is it wrong to disagree with anyone these days? I am a Christian who believes the Bible when it says that same sex relationships are wrong. However, I am not bigoted and have had gay friends even though I disagree with their lifestyle. It is possible to disagree and not be bigoted or hateful.
I think this is a huge step forward for the gay community. As a gay man myself I am of the belief that civil partnerships should be offered to all irrespective of sexuality, so opposite sex couples should be able to benefit. At the same time I also believe gay couples should be legally allowed to marry in church. That is a fair society. But it's a step in the right direction over time I am sure everything will work out slowly.
John McGough, Manchester, UK
If you love someone, and you want to be with them, then what does it matter? This new law is wonderful in that at least now in the eyes of the law such partnerships can be recognised. Let's just hope all those poor people out there who find it so 'wrong' can also find someone they love enough to want to be with forever.
Inheritance laws between spouses are largely a recognition of the expense of rearing children. I have no objection to gays and lesbians being offered recognition in law of their relationships, but we must not forget that marriage has only recently become a romantic notion. It used to be exclusively for the purpose of procreation, not the cementing of the very modern idea of a transcendent romantic ideal. Marriages driven by romance, whether between homosexuals or heterosexuals, are a radical departure from what marriage was originally about. Romance is a really very recent concept in human history. Recent, not invalid, of course. I agree that it is quite abhorrent that property rights are an issue if one partner in a homosexual marriage dies but we should think very carefully about what message an absolute equality of status send to children about the their own parents' marriage.
Although I am straight, I have a LOT of sympathy and respect for gay couples. This new law is long overdue and I wish the gay community all the very best for the future.
Carole Young, Glasgow
I am not a bigot and have nothing against gay people, however this is equality going too far - what is wrong with traditional marriage being put on a pedestal and being given higher recognition over other domestic arrangements. Marriage (despite all its problems) is there to provide a stable background for youngsters and this is just a further dilution of its status in society.
Joanne Fox writes: "I think that this is totally sick. First, they want to adopt kids and now they want to get married." Thanks, Joanne: this made me laugh out loud, and has made my day! What exactly is sick about this? Wanting to share financial and social responsibility with your partner? Wanting the comfort of knowing that you won't be booted out of your house when inheritance tax means you have to sell it when your partner dies? Or wanting to ensure that your partner is recognized as your next of kin if you should end up in hospital and unable to make decisions for yourself? I'm glad to see that views like Joanne's are being ignored when it comes to making legislation these days!
Dave Donaghy, Bath
What about two brothers who live together all their life? Or two sisters? What about flatmates? Are they to be allowed to 'marry' as well. At what point do we stop? You may laugh at this idea, but are two friends who love each other very much and may have lived together for 30 years but do not have sexual relations any different from homosexuals? I think that if you let homosexuals 'marry' in a civil service, then everyone should be allowed to do so, no matter the relationship. I just worry now this legislation has been passed, where does society go next?
Craig Scoular, Glasgow
If people wish to commit to each other it should not matter what sex they are. We should all be equal in the eyes of the law.
Please, please do not equate these "relationships" to marriage. To promote these immoral, unnatural and unhealthy unions is extremely irresponsible and dangerous.
R Scott, Aberdeen
Finally the government's having the maturity to treat us as real human beings who are fully aware of the significance of what we do. As to those who say it's not natural, there are proven instances of homosexual relationships throughout history - including in the animal kingdom. So if it isn't natural why does it keep happening? Hopefully this kind of blind egotistical view can now be put behind us.
May I address any comments that are not in favour for this historic change. As a gay man in a serious relationship for the past six years, with full support from both sides of the family, I think this is great news. The creation of the civil ceremony is only to redress the legal inequalities that the gay community have endured for years. It is not uncommon to hear of gay couples that have been together for years to pay 40% inheritance tax when their partner dies making the other effectively homeless. The "civil ceremony" is not a religious affair but is a point of law. This in turn affords an opportunity for committed couples to celebrate their love for each other and to their family and friends. Being gay is not a "conscious choice" or a "life style", as much as heterosexual people do not chose to be "straight".
As a man in my early 30's in a long-term relationship it is an exciting time. I remember my teenage years when, along with all of the other problems I was facing admitting I was gay, the fact that I would never be in a recognised relationship loomed large on the horizon. People will still sneer at it, you only have to look at a couple of the comments on this page, but over time this will become the norm. I am not religious and can't for the life of me imagine why anybody who has been systematically ostracised by a religion would want a church ceremony. Lets face it... it's going to be called marriage from the start so who the hell cares?
Glenn Masterton, Edinburgh
This is great news and it is heartwarming to see so many long-term partnerships finally being able to make this commitment to each other. Hopefully it will also do something to reduce the amount of people believing the unfortunate notion that all homosexual people are promiscuous and only capable of having casual relationships.
Is there a real difference between 'marriage' and 'civil partnership' (in essence)? If there is a difference, then it is not equality yet. If there isn't a difference, then I think the homosexual community is going after the wrong target. Because after all, 'marriage' is going to be a thing of the past, and 'civil partnership' will soon be, too. I like Donna's idea of civil partnership for co-habiting heterosexuals though.
We have been campaigning for this kind of equality for years! It's about time that people in gay relationships were given the recognition they deserve! It's a great step forward for civil liberties, and it's a slap in the face for the right-wing bigots!
James Mills, Westminster
What's worse? The hatred behind statements like 'moral degeneration' and 'sick' or a loving couple who are of the same sex being able to publicly demonstrate their love and commitment to each other and family. I know which I'd rather my children saw more of... my only worry is it's going to cost me a fortune in new hats!
This is a tremendous move. As sensible as it is progressive, and I say this as a heterosexual young male. Naturally, organised religion will decry this as "immoral". Of course, organised religion also thought women's suffrage was immoral and they also thought that giving the black community equal rights would lead to moral disintegration. In every socially progressive move that humanity has ever undertaken, organised religion has stood opposed to it. Perhaps now, it is the time for them to stand on the right side of history. Simon.
Simon Johnson, United Kingdom
To Joanne of Glasgow, I ask you...why not? Open your mind just a little bit and move with the times.
Becha, I think your homophobia is a dangerous example to set to my children. Your belief that people should not be free to live their lives as they wish is not an opinion that I enjoy seeing expressed in their presence. Same sex couples don't wish to affect you directly, yet you seem to be happy to tell them what they should do. I am neither gay nor currently interested in marriage. I do feel that my decision not to get married should be one that everyone is free to make. I believe that even Becha should have the same rights as all of us and I feel that any restriction on freedom must be based upon causing actual harm to others. Setting a bad example doesn't cut it as 'causing harm', I'm afraid.
Reading some of the straight people's comments on this just leaves me in despair at their ignorance and their arrogance is breathtaking. When will they realise that by giving these rights to gay people that it is just and right?
Alex Macadam, Inverness
It is encouraging that gay people are being put on the same footing as everyone else. A little bit more tolerance of others is still required in our society but this is a step in the right direction.
My partner and I plan a civil a partnership next May and think that this legislation was long overdue. Religious conservatives should realise that this law was never going to force church weddings and should not portray legal recognition of gay couples' rights as the end of the world. Theirs is not the only way, and there are religions that do accept homosexuality as a normal, and welcome, part of life.
Chris Quinn, Cumbernauld
I think it is time for religious people and churches alike to shut up and stop the ongoing bigotry against gay people, firstly because churches themselves have long been a cradle for all sorts of sex and secondly because, in speaking against gay people, churches are actually speaking against God's creation (assuming there is a God obviously). As for the news about the Archbishop of Cardiff, I don't thing he can speak with authority about relationships. Being a Roman Catholic he's celibate, so his knowledge about love, sex and relationships is nil.
Luis Guerreiro, Scotland
A positive step in the eternal fight for equality and acceptance that gay people have to go through their entire lives. This is the 21st century and two loving individuals should be able to announce their love to the world.
Nick Ward, Dundee
As a gay Scot who left Scotland in 1976 for the Netherlands it is a joy to see that Scotland at last has joined most of the rest of Europe in giving full rights to gay couples. At the same time while reading the comments of other 'straight' Brits I shudder at the amount of bigotry and underlying hate for gay people that still exists. There is still a long hard road to travel.
John Adamson, Hoofddorp
I think this is fantastic news. I do not think it is second class to marriage as marriage is a much more religious thing. Civil partnership allows same sex couples the rights they deserve. It's about time there was acceptance - not simply tolerance.
Linda, East Kilbride
About time too! In modern times who are we to say who can and can't have the right to a formal partnership?
Stacey Crawford, Aberdeen
I think this is fantastic news! It opens many doors for the gay community. To Y. Becha and J Fox, where is it your place to tell people when things are wrong and immoral? Even if you like it or not, homosexuality exists and it is something that young children growing up will realise. With regards to adoption, why shouldn't a loving family be allowed to offer a home to children? Everyone is capable of loving,
An excellent step forward for equal rights, its been a long road and a hard fight. Hopefully now that there is a recognised law in place an understanding can begin that we are no different from any other member of society living a productive life.
E. Ferguson, Belfast
It's fantastic news. We are lucky to live in the age now where society is more tolerant. Previous generations have fought for what is equal and we are able to reap the benefits of their hard work. The only people I've heard of that are against the new laws are people who haven't seen what a positive difference it makes to so many people. If they personally knew someone in this situation 90% of them would change their minds. I know my friends have and I can't wait to have my ceremony next year. It's just a pity Guernsey are so far behind that they haven't heard of the law and I have to go to England to do it!
Liz Kerr, Guernsey
Hopefully, we have travelled about as far as we can down the road of moral degeneration. How much further can we go? Or will the government next be subsidising homosexual 'marriages'?
The legislation is a great step forward. Some of the negative comments posted show the distance still to be travelled before Scotland can haul itself from the Dark Ages however - remember 'Keep the Clause' etc.
Gavin Smith, Edinburgh
Can we have the same "Civil Partnership" for heterosexual couples who "co-habit" too, i.e pensions etc? Marriage is outdated now, something you do to keep your parents happy. Do heterosexual couples have no "human rights" just because they don't want to get married? Just wonder.
The new law truly signifies the fact that we are heading towards a brighter future where we all can break the barrier and live peacefully. But as I am in the Armed Forces, having a same-sex relationship(s) still seems as a "disease", and an "untouchable" subject for any matter. There is still a very long way to go in all the three services to see this law to become more "neutral". I have been with my partner for a long time whilst being in the armed forces, and know the fact that should I wish to be "married" to him it will only create a lot of harassment and bullying as I have, in the past, received such unequal treatment. I guess, the attitude of the armed forces needs to change but who know how long that will take. I wish to express my sincere gratitude for those behind this law of same-sex marriage. Well done and all the best for the near future!
What an exciting announcement! I am glad to finally see these kinds of changes occurring.
B. Blocki, Chicago
As a gay man in a serious relationship, this means the world to me. Having the opportunity to formalise a relationship (like any other "straight" couple) is a choice that's been denied for too long. Thanks everyone for the great support that this new law has been given.
I think it is immoral and is sending the wrong message to a younger generation that is badly in need of spiritual guidance. It is not a natural relationship and should not be seen as such.
Y. Becha, Dartford
About time too. I think most of the problem this law has encountered stems for the use of the term "marriage". Marriage is a religious sacrament and should be considered as such. The Germans have for a long time separated out the civil and religious aspects of marriage. This would be a sensible route to take here too. All couples undertake the same "civil partnership" that defines their legal and civil rights/responsibilities, etc. The couple can add whatever religious aspects congruent with their beliefs as appropriate.
Donald Stewart, Edinburgh
I think that this is totally sick. First, they want to adopt kids and now they want to get married.
Joanne Fox, Glasgow
How sad that the BBC is now under the impression that second-class marriage is "equality". Hopefully in short order we'll look back on this and wonder how we could have been so cowardly and bigoted.
I fully support the new civil partnership law. It's not marriage - it's a civil partnership! It's modern and legal. It's a massive step forward for equality and human rights. The UK is first again. Thank you Mr Blair !
Darren Bradshaw, Oldham
M. McCormack, Scotland