The Scottish Government has begun gathering views on whether same-sex marriage should be made legal.
A 14-week consultation asks if marriage in Scotland should be allowed for gay people through a civil or religious ceremony.
Currently same-sex couples can enter a civil partnership which carries full legal rights but the ceremony cannot be conducted in a church or other religious premises.
Ministers and officials say they intend to meet key groups to discuss the proposals, which would ensure religious organisations do not have to register same-sex marriages against their will.
A recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey found that more than 60% of people believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry, compared with 19% who disagree.
The issue caused controversy among politicians earlier this month when SNP MSP John Mason, who was criticised by some party colleagues, claimed in a parliamentary motion that no one should be “forced” to approve of same-sex marriage.
The Shettleston MSP, a practising Baptist, insisted churches feared they could be taken to court if they refused to conduct ceremonies under any change to legislation.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “In publishing the consultation today, we are setting out our initial view. We tend towards the view that same-sex marriage should be introduced.
“However, we are aware that for religious reasons, some faith groups and celebrants may not want to solemnise same-sex marriages, and that is why we are making it clear that they should not be obliged to do so.
“Although the Government has set out its initial view, we give an absolute assurance that all views will be listened to. No final views have been reached and no decisions have been taken.”
If legislation is taken forward, there will be further consultation on a draft Bill. A finalised Bill could then be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2013.
• Full story at STV.