SAME-sex marriage has been backed by a Holyrood committee on a majority view, but the MSPs unanimously called for the final decision to be a free vote on conscience grounds.

The Equal Opportunities Committee did not vote on the issue but the Stage 1 report on the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill reflected the fact that a minority remained opposed to the plans because they were not satisfied safeguards would prevent Churches facing legal action if they refused to participate.

Convener Margaret McCulloch said: "All of us on the committee recognise the validity, depth and sincerity of all views submitted to us on what has clearly been an emotive issue for all of our stakeholders.

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"While the majority of our committee supports the general principles of this Bill, we wholeheartedly support the right of all members of the Scottish Parliament to vote on the Bill as a matter of conscience."

The Bill will now go to the full Parliament for consideration.

Tom French, of the Equality Network charity, said backing the Bill would help remove discrimination from law. "With just days to go before the crucial Stage 1 vote on the equal marriage Bill, we urge MSPs to stand up for a fairer and more equal Scotland by giving this milestone legislation their full support," he said.

He claimed a large majority of people in Scotland believed it was time Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people had full equality. "This Bill will remove discrimination from the law and send out an important message about the kind of country we are."