EDINBURGH, July 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A public consultation on a controversial proposal to legalize same-sex “marriage” in Scotland has ended with a disappointment for supporters of traditional marriage after the government announced it has rejected holding a referendum on the issue.

An unnamed government spokeswoman said today that while the committee headed up by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will assess the proposals further before any final decision is taken, it has definitely ruled out a referendum.

The spokeswoman said the cabinet views the issue “as an issue of conscience not constitution,” and said that if a bill were brought forward to legalize same-sex “marriage,” the government would allow a free vote.

Scotland for Marriage, a campaign supporting marriage as the union of one man and one woman which has the support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland as well as other religious and non-religious groups, had initiated a petition in favor of retaining the current legal definition marriage, and supported holding a referendum.

“This issue should be decided by the people, not by politicians,” the group said. “If there is to be a change it should be subject to a referendum. The Scottish Government did not invent marriage, and it does not have the moral authority to redefine it. At the very least, on an issue of this importance, MSPs should be guided by their constituents more on this issue than would normally be the case.”

The homosexualist advocacy group, Equality Network, had said the government should reject the call for a referendum because such a move would “go against the core principles of Scotland’s representative democracy.”

“A referendum would be un-Scottish, unfair and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money,” policy co-ordinator for Equality Network, Tom French, said.

Scotland for Marriage, however, said a poll carried out by ComRes for the group showed 50 percent of people in Scotland want a nationwide vote. The survey also found that 55 percent of respondents believe marriage should continue to be defined as “life-long exclusive commitment between man and woman.”

The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), which concluded the 14-week consultation on the issue in December, revealed that almost 80,000 people submitted their comments and noted that this was a much larger response than the 26,000 who commented on the consultation over Scottish independence. A referendum on Scottish independence is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2014, according to the BBC.

Before launching the consultation, the government said it “tends toward the view” that same-sex “marriage” should be legalized, with the proviso that faith groups should not be forced to conduct the ceremonies.

Currently same-sex couples in Scotland can enter into civil partnerships, which have all the legal rights of marriage.

The government’s proposal to redefine marriage has been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the country’s Muslim community.

The head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has called homosexual “marriage” a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” which would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world.” He urged the Scottish government to hold a referendum on the proposals.

“The Scottish government’s consultation on redefining marriage had three times more respondents than the consultation on the constitution, demonstrating clearly that far more people are concerned about fundamental matters of morality at the present time,” said O’Brien.

“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 announced a plan to raise £100,000 through special church collections to support the Scotland For Marriage campaign against same-sex “marriage.”

For more information and to sign the Scotland For Marriage petition in support of retaining the current legal definition of marriage, visit the group’s website here.