Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages (SSM) in Scotland
Part 3: 2011 & 2012: Support for, & opposition
SSM by the public and religious groups:
Response by the Scottish Youth Parliament:
The Equal Marriage Scotland campaign was launched on 2011-SEP-29 in the offices of the Scottish Youth Parliament -- a group that has included same-sex marriage as a plank in their election campaign. Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network said that five faith groups had gone on record as supporting same-sex marriage and had been invited to take part in the launch. They are the Scottish Unitarians, the Liberal Jewish Community, the Society of Friends -- the Quakers, -- the Metropolitan Community Church and the Pagan Federation.
At the meeting:
- Bishop Richard Holloway of the Scottish Episcopal Church, representing himself, said of religious conservatives:
"What you are doing is you're denying this couple who want to make this pledge to each other from being able to do it. That's what people are beginning to realize. [It] is an intolerable intrusion into people's freedom and integrity. History has shown that whenever those things have come to human consciousness, they've slowly been changed. We're in the midst of that slow change here in Scotland."
As past examples of the sluggishness of churches to change; he cited the status of women and abolition of human slavery.
Referring to the results of the Social Attitudes Survey of 2006, which showed 57% of Catholic churchgoers supported SSM, he said: "Within a few days of the Government announcing this consultation a lot of publicity was generated by the opposition to the idea by the bishops of the Catholic Church. It is worth pointing out [that] the majority of Catholics disagree with their own bishops on this. Christians who oppose gay marriage will, in time, be shown to be on the wrong side of history. ... There is no single Christian or religious view on this subject. ...
Many religious people and organizations actually agree with same-sex marriage."
- Susan Dance, representing herself, is the facilitator of the Buddhist Community of Interbeing. She supports marriage equality.
- The Rev. Maud Robinson of Unitarians in Edinburgh said: "We fully recognize the right of other faith communities to refuse to officiate at such marriages without penalty, but not their right to impose their views on others. ... They are saying we recognize these partnerships in law, we recognize same-sex couples can have all of the legal rights that accrue to heterosexual relationships, but they can't ask for the blessing of God on their relationship."
- Rabbi Mark Solomon said: "Extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples will make Scotland a fairer, stronger and better country." Noting that many secular groups see religious groups as "... inherently conservative and 'anti-' lots of things," he added: "If this [legislation] were not to get through because of strong religious opposition, it would reinforce that sense of many people in society that religion is simply there to squash freedom rather than to extend it."
- The Rev Jane Clarke of the Metropolitan Community Church said: "We welcome the opportunity to solemnize marriage for those within the LGBT community who wish a religious ceremony. LGBT folks should be entitled to the same marriage options as other folk."
- The Rev Troy Perry, who founded the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles in 1968, spoke of how he had been forced to go to Toronto in order to marry his partner.
Canada legalized same-sex marriages in mid-2005. He said: "I had to leave my own country in order to marry. I am proud of the Scottish Government for what they are doing."
- Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "I welcome the contribution that these five religious groups have made to the debate and I hope this will be an important step in our fight for equality for all."
- An unidentified Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We have published a consultation on same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships, and made clear that we tend towards the view same-sex marriage should be introduced. However, we are aware that, for religious reasons, some faith groups and celebrants may not want to solemnize same-sex marriages, and that is why we are making it clear they should not be obliged to do so.
We recognize there will be a range of views on the consultation proposals, and we want to hear the views from all sections of Scottish society. No final views have been reached and no decisions have been taken." 1,2
Response by Stonewall Scotland:
This is a gay-positive organization, named after the famous Stonewall Inn riot in New York City during 1969. That event is generally acknowledged to be the trigger that started the gay liberation movement.
The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that:
"Stonewall Scotland, which campaigns for equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, welcomed the decision to consult on same-sex marriage.
Director Alan Wardle said: 'Along with a growing majority of Scots, we believe gay, lesbian and bisexual couples should have equal legal access to civil marriage, with no mandate on religious organizations to celebrate it. We also seek to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples recognizing their special and unique status.' 3
Response by opposition political parties:
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that:
"Scottish Green party leader Patrick Harvie MSP said: 'The perception of same-sex relationships as somehow wrong or second class is destined for the dustbin of history. There are practical issues about how to get the details of legislation right, and this consultation will resolve those matters. But the principle must be clear.'
Labour's Health and Wellbeing spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said: 'We believe that the time is now right to consult on options to provide genuine equality for same-sex couples and their families, by addressing the different status of civil partnership and marriage. We believe too that religious organizations -- that want to -- should be given the freedom to hold civil partnerships in their buildings for the first time. ... I hope that the consultation will help dispel the myth that religious organizations will be forced to do anything against their will and put an end to the scare mongering we have seen from some members of the [Scottish Nationalist Party] SNP'." 3
2012-MAR-03: Keith Cardinal O’Brien strongly attacks SSM:
External to Scotland, the UK government introduced a Consultation with the people of England and Wales concerning its proposal to legalize civil same-sex marriages. To counteract this, a letter was read during the 2,500 masses conducted during Roman Catholic services in England and Wales on 2012-MAR-10. It instructed the laity of their duty to resist the government's action.
One week before the letter was read, Keith Cardinal O’Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, took a more strident position, accusing the government of "grotesque subversion." He said that allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry is akin to the legalization of slavery.
He wrote that:
"All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father; the evidence in favor of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal.
He also noted that gays have "exceptionally medically hazardous" relationships.
On MAR-05, he was interviewed on Radio 4's Today program. He defended his earlier comments, warning of "further aberrations" in the future. He said that if SSMs become legal:
"... society would be degenerating even further than it has already degenerated into immorality. ... I am not saying it is grotesque, but perhaps to some people it might appear grotesque. ... I think if the UK does go for same sex marriage it is indeed shaming our country. ... We’re taking standards which are not just our own but standards from the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations where marriage is defined as a relationship between man and woman and turning that on its head. ... I would say that countries where this is legal are indeed violating human rights."
Responses to Cardinal O'Brien by individuals supporting marriage equality were strongly worded:
- Conservative member of parliament, MP Daniel Byles issued a tweet saying that Cardinal O'Brien's comments were "bizarre and incoherent."
- MP Stephen Gilbert said: "God made all men and women equal – O’Brien decided some are more equal than others."
- George Broadhead, spokesperson of the gay humanist group -- the Pink Triangle Trust -- said:
"Has the cardinal not heard that gay marriage has already been legalized in no fewer than ten countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and The Netherlands? I am not aware that any of these countries have suffered shame or any sort of pariah status as a result. This just shows how out of touch with reality the Roman Catholic Church has become."
- Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall wrote: “When you read the insulting tone to which Cardinal O’Brien descends on marriage, you sense an argument already lost."
- Peter Tatchell, who coordinates the Equal Love campaign, said:
"If he supports marriage, the Cardinal should welcome the fact that many lesbian and gay couples want to get married. Same-sex marriage does not detract in any way from heterosexual marriage. It does not diminish or devalue marriages between opposite-sex couples.
Allowing same-sex marriage does not undermine marriage; it strengthens it.
Cardinal O’Brien has attacked government plans as an attempt to redefine marriage. But the churches have redefined marriage in the past. They no longer oppose divorce and the remarriage of divorced couples. There is no reason why marriage should not be redefined to include lesbian and gay couples.
Gay marriage is about love and commitment. These are Christian values, so I don’t understand why the Cardinal objects to gay couples getting married." 4
Webmaster's note: Bias alert:
For every adult Scot opposed to same-sex marriage, there are over three adults in favor. This is the one of largest ratios we have seen in any country, state/province, or culture!
The strong support for SSM It is likely caused by the predominately secular culture in Scotland. Attendance and affiliation with Christian denominations has been in steady decline for decades. For example, for the Church of Scotland between 2001 and 2010:
- Their total communicants dropped by 25%.
- Baptisms dropped by 37%.
- Total number of congregations dropped by 7%
- During 2010, the total deaths within the denomination (11,454) greatly exceeded the number of new members (1,928). 5
If these trends continue, the Church may become an old-folks burial society.
The conservative and many mainline Christian denominations that have opposed marriage equality are following historical Christian traditions of oppression and rejection towards the LGBT community. They appear to be profoundly disconnected from public opinion, although they remain in close touch with the beliefs of many of their own member.
I am totally confused about Keith Cardinal O’Brien's comments. He suggests that to extend the fundamental human right of marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples by allowing them rights equal to those enjoyed by heterosexual couples would be violating human rights.
Cardinal O'Brien noted that gays have "exceptionally medically hazardous" relationships. It is unclear whether he was referring to male gays or to all persons with a homosexual orientation. The term "gay" can refer to either. He ignored the fact that lesbians have a much lower incidence of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) than do male gays, heterosexuals of both genders, and bisexuals. He also did not take this thought to what appears to be its logical conclusion: to encourage gays to enter into loving, committed monogamous relationships. The right to enter into a same-sex marriage would seem to encourage greatly such relationships.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Robbie Dinwoodie, "Faith groups unite to back gay weddings," The Herald/Scotland, 2011-SEP-29 at: http://www.heraldscotland.com/
- Scott Macnam, "Same-sex marriage ban denies freedom, say religious groups," The Scotsman, 2011-SEP-29, at: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/
- "Scottish government launches gay marriage consultation," BBC News, 2011-SEP-03, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
- Stephen Gray, "Cardinal defends 'grotesque’ gay marriage comment and calls to stop 'progress'," Pink News, 2012-MR-05, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- "Same-sex relationships and the ministry," British religion in Numbers, 2011-MAY-25, at: http://www.brin.ac.uk/
Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2011-SEP-27
Latest update: 2012-MAR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson