The Scottish Parliament this evening passed its equal marriage bill through the first stage of debate with a large majority.

After a heated debate, the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill was passed with a large majority of 98 votes to 15. 5 members abstained.

Speaking after the vote, Liberal Democrat MSP, Jim Hume said:  “Today’s vote was a big step forward for equality and a move towards the fairer Scotland that we all want to see.

“The principle we are debating here is very simple. Same-sex partners do not love one another any less than other couples. Their relationships deserve the same recognition and protections as any other.

“The word ‘historic’ is often thrown around far too easily in politics, but this was a genuinely historic day for Scotland. Today’s vote was not just on a bill. It was on the principle of a fundamental reform that will demonstrate clearly that our Scottish society values everyone – no matter their sexuality.”

The Scottish National Party minister said: “I have pointed out that I am supportive of the existing rights of same-sex couples to civil partnerships, and that I welcome the belated respect which society rightly gives gay people, but that I believe difficult issues are raised around the specific question of marriage.”

If the bill passes at Stage 2, the Stage 3 vote is likely to happen in early 2014.

Yesterday, Scotland’s Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Alasdair Allan, said he would not vote in favour of the bill – but he still expects it to pass.

The Stage One vote on the country’s same-sex marriage bill was in many respects the most important vote because it revealed for the first time that a majority of MSPs supported introducing equal marriage.

Following today’s vote, the Bill will return to Holyrood’s equal opportunities committee, for stage two scrutiny, to consider any amendments which need to be made before a final vote at some point early next year. Securing approval ‘in principle’ is likely to end any doubts about the legislation being passed.

Welcoming the move, Scottish Quaker Phil Lucas said: “It’s a matter of justice and equality. We want this because Quakers have a longstanding commitment to equality and we wish to express our belief in the right of all committed couples who love each other to be treated equally.”

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “Quakers have recognised same-sex marriage since 2009 because we see God in everyone and believe all committed couples should be treated equally. We’ve been waiting for the law to catch up and it is good to see legislation making progress in Scotland.”