Human rights groups, Christians supporting equality and the Green Party have welcomed the accelerated Scottish consultation on marriage equality.
The consultation was launched at the end of the week by ministers in the Scottish government, and argued that strong support for the move towards recognising same-sex marriage shown over the summer recess has helped to move the timetable forward.
Formal consultation had not been expected until spring 2012, but cross-party backing for an amendment put forward by the Scottish Greens' co-leader Patrick Harvie has given confidence that a Parliamentary majority exists for the principle of equality.
Those supporting the change believe that all couples should have the right to civil partnerships or marriage, as suits them, and that faith groups which wish to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies - religious or secular - should be permitted to do so.
Patrick Harvie MSP commented: "Marriage and family law should be about love and commitment, and the perception of same-sex relationships as somehow wrong or second class is destined for the dustbin of history. There are practical issues about how to get the details of legislation right, and this consultation will resolve those matters. But the principle must be clear - and I call for a commitment for legislation to be introduced in 2012."
He added: "The initial view expressed by SNP Ministers is welcome, but we now need to keep up the pace and ensure that the law catches up with public opinion. There is no reason why we should be waiting till halfway through the current Parliament before we see legislation passed at Holyrood, and if we move quickly we will put real pressure on the UK Government to act as well."
"If Scotland moves before the rest of the UK, coalition Ministers must either give full recognition to same-sex marriages, including those of English and Welsh residents who travel north of the border for their ceremonies, or leave themselves facing a charge of prejudice and hypocrisy. This could be another issue where Scotland's Parliament leads to progress throughout the whole UK," said Mr Harvie.