Scots should be asked to vote in a referendum on same-sex marriage, the country's most senior Catholic has claimed.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien has urged the Scottish Government to hold the poll because of "intense public interest".
Ministers are expected to announce their plans for legislation this week, following a consultation that closed in December.
It attracted almost 80,000 responses - the highest number of any Holyrood consultation - and ignited a debate between gay rights supporters and the Catholic Church.
Ministers had previously said they "tend towards the view" that same-sex marriage should be introduced, although faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise the ceremonies.
Cardinal O'Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, had previously described the potential law change as "madness".
He said: "Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial that we have one on marriage. It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue.
"Let all those who have a view on this subject place their trust in the Scottish people and let Scotland decide."
Earlier this month, Cardinal O'Brien authorised a plan to raise £100,000 through special church collections to support the Scotland For Marriage campaign against same-sex marriage.
He said: "Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Cabinet have had a first discussion on the next steps following the consultation on same sex marriage and the registration of civil partnerships and have asked for some further detail.
"We fully expect to be in a position to publish the way ahead this month."
The Equality Network, a Scottish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group, criticised the national referendum proposal, describing it as a waste of money.
Tom French, policy coordinator for the network, said: "If there was a nationwide referendum, conducted fairly, we are sure that Scots would vote for equality for same-sex couples. But that is not the way Scottish democracy works. Our MSPs were elected on clear manifesto commitments to consider the evidence, and decide, and we have confidence in them to do that. A referendum would be un-Scottish, unfair and a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money.
"We urge the Scottish Government to stand firm, stick by its principles and make the right decision. With cross-party support in Parliament, and majority support amongst the public, it is now time for the Scottish Government to back equality and bring forward equal marriage legislation without delay. It is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it."
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