Scottish Parliament Cheers as Nation Becomes 17th to Legalize Gay Marriage

02/05/2014 at 12:10 PM EST

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Larry Lamont and Jerry Slater take part in a symbolic same-sex marriage outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland

Russell Cheyne/Reuters/Landov

Scotland became the 17th country to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday, by a parliamentary vote of 105 to 18.

"Marriage is about love, and that has always been at the heart of this issue," Scotland Health Secretary Alex Neil said in a statement, according to Reuters.

"This is a profoundly emotional moment for many people who grew up in a country where being gay was still a criminal offense until 1980," Tom French, policy coordinator for the Equality Network, added in a statement.

The vote came at an interesting time – Scotland is preparing for a September vote that will decide whether the country will declare its independence and split from the rest of Britain. Groups opposing the same-sex marriage vote were keen to highlight this point:

"At a time in Scotland when we are considering what kind of nation we want to live in, this legislation sends all the wrong signals about the place of marriage and family in modern day Scotland," Evangelical Alliance Scotland spokesman Fred Drummond said.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2001. Last year, England and Wales, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand and France also made that move; parts of the U.S. and Mexico allow it as well.

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