The Scottish government is expected to make a decision later today about whether to bring forward legislation which would allow gay couples to marry when it publishes details of a public consultation today.

The Scottish government has said it “tends towards the view” that gay couples should be allowed an equal right to marry to straight couples, and that religious bodies should not be forced to hold wedding ceremonies against their beliefs.

The public consultation on marriage ended in December with 80,000 responses. Results are expected to be released this afternoon.

With support from the leaders of Scotland’s main political parties and from a majority of members of the Scottish parliament, the most vocal opposition has come from the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Supporting the Scotland for Marriage anti-equality campaign, he has called the idea of marriage equality a “gross subversion of a universally accepted human right” and yesterday called for a referendum on the issue.

Scotland for Marriage said if advocates “believe their own hype” and the results of regular opinion polls which show support for marriage equality, they should have the “guts” to put it to a public vote.

The Equality Network said it would be “un-Scottish, unfair and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money” to put to a public ballot an issue which the government was elected with a manifesto commitment to decide.

In PinkNews.co.uk today, Shadow Minister for the Scotland Office Willie Bain MP said referenda are rightly only held for “intractable constitutional questions”.

He said the strong political consensus meant Scotland was “likely” to become the twelfth nation and the first part of the UK to allow gay couples to marry.

A statement by the Scottish government earlier this month that the decision would be delayed until “next month” was retracted after it was discovered the statement had been written in June, not July, so the month it meant to refer to was in fact July, not August.

The Cabinet will meet early this afternoon with a press briefing expected to take place a few hours later.