Church opposition to redefining marriage
Publication Date: 2011-09-09
The Scottish Government’s consultation plan on ‘same-sex’ marriage rings alarm bells. Church will oppose, say bishops
The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has questioned the validity of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on marriage between homosexuals.
The bishops expressed concern that the decision to legalise marriage between homosexuals had already been taken and the public consultation would not be taken seriously by the government.
The 14-week public consultation on the issue asks if marriage in Scotland should be allowed for same-sex couples through a civil or religious ceremony.
The consultation was launched last Friday by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon who said she and the rest of the Scottish Government ‘tend towards the view that same-sex marriage should be introduced’ and was considering introducing a bill proposing the changes next year.
Church to respond
The Scottish bishops stressed that many of the suggestions in the consultation were entirely hostile to Catholic teaching and the Church was bound to resist them.
“The view of the Church is clear, no government can rewrite human nature; the family and marriage existed before the state and are built on the union between a man and woman,” they said. “Any attempt to redefine marriage is a direct attack on a foundational building block of society and will be strenuously opposed.”
The bishops discussed the issue during a meeting this week. In a statement they said that the Scottish Church would examine the consultation process extremely closely to see if it would have any effect on the government’s final decision.
“The Catholic Church will study the consultation document in detail and respond to it,” they said. “It is not clear at this stage whether ministers have decided to legislate regardless of the outcome of the consultation. If a decision to legislate has been taken, it is not clear what purpose a consultation serves.”
The bishops said they hoped that the government would respect the consultation process but the Church’s experiences on legislation, such as that which brought an end Catholic to adoption agencies, did not fill them with confidence.
“It is to be hoped that the government will accept that any consultation must permit proper, balanced reflection of the arguments and not just be an exercise for justifying the campaign demands of a vociferous lobby group,” they said. “We share the concerns which have been raised about the efficacy of Scottish Government consultations. Assurances must be given by the Scottish Government that only voters resident in Scotland will be able to participate and the response mechanisms should ensure this.”
Despite these concerns individual members of the Bishops’ Conference said they will make their own contributions to the consultation and urged the Catholic community in Scotland to do the same.
The consultation was launched by health secretary Nicola Sturgeon (right) who said she and the rest of the Scottish Government ‘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.’
Currently, same sex couples can obtain legal recognition of their relationship through entering into civil partnerships but the ceremonies may not take place in religious premises and can only be registered by civil registrars.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government would meet interested groups to discuss the issues surrounding same sex marriage during the consultation period, which concludes in December. Following the consultation, if a decision is taken to change the law, a bill could be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in 2013.
Ms Sturgeon did pledge to listen to the views of all groups: “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.”
Mike Judge of The Christian Institute also expressed grave concern about the consultation process and questioned the need for fresh legislation in this area.
“All the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples through civil partnership registrations,” Mr Judge said. “Last year only 465 civil partnerships were registered in Scotland. This is not about rights, this is about redefining marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.”
Mr Judge also warned that if the consultation led to fresh legislation there could be dangerous consequences.
“If marriage is redefined for homosexual marriage, that new definition will be the one that the state promotes as the standard,” he said. “It will have huge implications for what is taught in schools and for wider society. If marriage can be redefined for homosexual marriage, why not redefine it to allow polygamy? Canada has legalised homosexual marriage, and litigation is now underway in one Canadian state to legalise polygamy. Marriage, although undermined by easy divorce and cohabitation, remains a key building block of society. Children do best when they have a mother and a father who are committed to each other. Children need a mother and a father, but homosexual marriage denies this.”
Mr Judge also expressed fear that the cost of legislating marriage between homosexuals could be prohibitive.