The Scottish cabinet on Tuesday is scheduled to discuss plans to legalize gay marriage after holding a consultation on the issue. Over 80,000 people participated in the process.

Gay marriage supporters are hopeful that the government will announce it backs such legislation, but there remains the possibility that ministers may delay the changes as opposition from religious groups mounts. The Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland strongly oppose gay nuptials.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Roman Catholic, has described the plans as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.”

Religious groups are urging the Scottish government to hold a referendum on the issue.

“[A referendum is] against the core principles of Scotland's representative democracy,” said gay rights advocate The Equality Network.

“If there was a nationwide referendum, conducted fairly, we are sure that Scots would vote for equality for same-sex couples,” added Tom French, the group's policy coordinator. “But that is not the way Scottish democracy works.”

The issue of marriage equality is a priority for the Scottish National Party (SNP), whose leaders pledged to legalize the institution if elected.

Scotland currently recognizes the relationships of gay and lesbian couples with civil partnerships.

Britain and Wales are also debating the issue.