Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

News

Scotland forges ahead with gay ‘marriage’ plans amidst widespread opposition

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

EDINBURGH, August 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Scottish Presbyterian denomination, the Free Church of Scotland, told media this week that “tens of thousands” of Scottish people responded to a public consultation with a “definitive no” to the government’s plans to install “gay marriage.” But by pushing forward with the gay ‘marriage’ plans anyway, the government is rendering “the whole exercise completely meaningless,” said the denomination.

The government, they said, is “riding roughshod” over the “clear opposition” expressed by the overwhelming majority.

A spokesman for the church said, “The Scottish Government’s decision to press ahead with these plans is astounding given the huge number of Scots who have said that they do not want marriage to be redefined.”

“Not only are the Scottish Government redefining marriage, but obviously redefining what consultation means as well.”

The Scottish government pledged to bring in “gay marriage” in July, intending to allow it in both religious and civil settings. Two-thirds of the 77,000 responses in the public consultation were opposed to the plan, the Christian Institute reports.

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Meanwhile, a Queen’s Council lawyer has advised the government that the legal ramifications of passing “gay marriage” will be wide-ranging, warning that anyone in any public position, not just religious ministers and marriage celebrants, with strong moral opposition to homosexuality will be forced to approve and promote it.

Aidan O’Neill, QC, presented a list of circumstances where gay ‘marriage’ will likely encroach on the rights of Scottish citizens. He warned, for instance, that teachers who refuse to use “gay friendly” materials in class could be dismissed, and that religious schools will be prohibited from teaching about natural marriage. He also said a hospital chaplain who preached about traditional marriage could be disciplined even if he were off duty at the time and that foster parents could be struck off local council fostering lists for expressing opposition to same-sex “marriage.” As well, church groups from denominations opposed to “gay marriage” could be refused the use of public facilities, he said.

At the same time, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has said that he is “unlikely” to support the government in a vote, saying that the great majority of his constituents are not reassured by the promises of “safeguards” for religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Allan, who serves as Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, said, “[P]eople have made very clear that they are not reassured by safeguards around areas to do with existing rights of churches not to participate. I have to reflect the views of people in the constituency. I will study the bill but I think I am unlikely to support it in the chamber.”

“The level of responses certainly indicates the depth of feeling on both sides of the argument. I am trying to give it a great deal of thought, I can’t please everyone but I think in this one the constituency has made the view clear,” he added.

Despite these concerns and widespread public opposition, the government is forging ahead. A spokesman responded saying, “We are entirely confident of protecting freedom of speech and freedom of religion within our same-sex marriage proposals.

“We have stated that in taking forward this legislation we will discuss the range of concerns with stakeholders and what additional protections should be included.”

This week it was revealed that Scottish ministers intend to forestall the process until the UK Equalities Act can be amended to protect the freedoms of those opposed to gay ‘marriage’. But despite similar assurances from the Blair Labour government, the Act was used as the pretext to force the closure or secularization of all the country’s Catholic adoption agencies and has been the basis for several legal actions against Bed &Breakfast owners who have refused to allow same-sex partners share a bed in their home.

Scotland’s deputy first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said, “The Scottish government has already made clear that no religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages and we reiterate that today. Such protection is provided for under existing equality laws.

“However, our view is that to give certainty on protection for individual celebrants taking a different view from a religious body that does agree to conduct same sex marriages, an amendment will be required to the UK Equality Act.”

The government has since announced another public consultation to consider the implications for freedom of speech, protection of religious beliefs of teachers and parents of children in public schools.

A Scotland for Marriage spokesman said that the plans will necessarily “penalise and punish those who disagree with redefining marriage”.

“They have ignored their own public consultation, and announced that they will proceed with legislation even though – by their own admission – the civil liberty concerns still hang in the balance,” he said.

“It has become abundantly clear to the country the proposals from the outset have been ill-conceived and poorly thought out with no consideration for the views of the vast majority in the country, including people of faith.

“Now they are planning yet another consultation. Will they simply consult and consult until they get the answer they want? As they do so, their continued posturing puts the civil rights of religious people at risk.”

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