Same-sex ‘marriage’ mire
Publication Date: 2011-10-28
— Despite Scottish bishops’ legal, moral and validity concerns, government moves forward with plans
In spite of again reassuring the Church that the public consultation on same-sex ‘marriage’ is not a sham, the Deputy First Minister this week revealed that the Scottish Government has already looked into how to bring the matter before the Scottish Parliament.
In a meeting with Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley on Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon reiterated that the outcome of the consultation was not predetermined, however she admitted the government had looked at how to move forward with potential same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation with a view to bringing it before the parliament in 2013. Ms Sturgeon went on to say that if the government took the legislation of same-sex ‘marriage’ forward there would be a second consultation on the issue.
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow this week warned that, should the law be changed, people opposed to legalising same-sex ‘marriage’ would find themselves in an ‘unlawful’ position and could lose their jobs because of their views.
Damaging to society
John Deighan, the Catholic bishops’ parliamentary officer in Scotland who was at Tuesday’s meeting, said that Ms Sturgeon revealed her government had looked at the timetable for bringing forward same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation before the Scottish Parliament in 2013. However, she had stressed it was not a certainty they would do so, he said.
He added that Bishop Tartaglia had been ‘very forthright’ in representing the Church’s position to the Deputy First Minister this week.
“The bishop said the Church is against this because it will be fundamentally damaging to society and the government,” Mr Deighan said. “If you look at the number of civil partnerships taking place it’s tiny, yet this change could have massive impact on the society far beyond those numbers.
“Marriage is a fundamental human institution based on the socialising of children and that needs to be respected.”
In a letter to a national newspaper this week Archbishop Conti claimed a large number of Scots were opposed to redefining the law on marriage and would continue to believe it was wrong even if MSPs passed new legislation.
“A change in the law will effectively render such people in a sense unlawful, vulnerable to accusations of discrimination, and in danger in some circumstances, of losing their jobs,” the archbishop said.
Ms Sturgeon said after the Tuesday’s meeting that she had given the assurance ‘that all views will be listened to, no final views have been reached and no decisions have been taken’ even though ‘ministers tend towards the initial view that same-sex ‘marriage’ should be introduced.’
The Deputy First Minister said ‘that faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same-sex marriages’ and added that she welcomed the ‘meeting with the Catholic Church, which gave me an opportunity to hear the Church’s views and concerns about the consultation, while also enabling me to repeat such assurances.’
Ms Sturgeon also said she wanted to congratulate the Church on its efforts to engage with the consultation.
“I also wanted to thank the Church for their efforts to raise awareness of this consultation and encouraging people to respond,” she said. “I have made clear that my door will remain open for further discussions with the Catholic Church and all other interested parties during the consultation period, should that be helpful.”
Concerns over the legitimacy of the Scottish Government’s public consultation have been growing after a senior SNP MP said at the party’s conference in Inverness last week that Alex Salmond’s government ‘will’ introduce it.
During a fringe debate Peter Wishart, the MSP for Perth and North Perthshire, said he believed the legislation was inevitable.
“What I believe will happen is that our government over the course of the next few years, after this consultation, will bring forward legislation which will ensure we will have equal marriage in this country,” he said. “I’m proud of that, I’m proud that this is the party that will be leading us forward and I look forward to that new Scotland that we’re trying to build.”
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said Mr Wishart’s comments undermined the credibility of the consultation.
“It is a direct contradiction of what we were told personally by the First Minister on October 7,” he said referring to the recent meeting between Alex Salmond and the Bishop Tartaglia.
“When the bishop raised his concerns the First Minister said no final decision has been taken. The onus is on Pete Wishart to withdraw that statement or on Alex Salmond to admit the consultation exercise is a complete sham.”
The Catholic Church’s campaign against the legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage’ has already received significant public support with the Church’s parliamentary office receiving more than 7000 signed postcards of support in the past week alone.
The SNP Government’s finance minister John Swinney acknowledged at the conference that the issue of same-sex ‘marriage’ has ‘divided opinion’ in the SNP and beyond and said he hopes the consultation process will provide a ‘route through these issues’ in the months ahead.
“There will be no compulsion here, there will be no obligation. The protection is there so that no individual within the religious community will be obliged to do this,” he said.
“I think we’re right to take this course of action —we’re right to make it possible for religious practitioners to conduct same-sex marriages if they wish to do so.”
Mr Swinney also said he not believe there was a danger of test legal cases being brought against a church’s that refused to hold same-sex ceremonies.
“I think this is an issue of clear sensitivity,” he said.
“If we are making the provision available, we have to make it available on the basis that the commitments and the protections that we put in place are commitments and protections that we can fully honour.”