The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and the most senior Catholic in the UK, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has launched a new attack in his 'war' on same-sex marriage.
This time he's aiming at the Scottish government's rejection of his demand to hold a referendum on marriage equality.
During a cabinet meeting earlier this week the Scottish government ruled out a national referendum. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, stated a parliamentary vote is the proper way to address the issue of legalising gay-marriage.
Nevertheless, The Cardinal insisted that a referendum should take place because same-sex marriage raises ‘serious implications for freedom of belief and expression', and that ‘should be as important to a free society as any constitutional matter’.
Experts believe that the Cardinal’s ‘constitutional matter’ refers to his views that marriage equality is as important issue for a referendum as Scottish independence. This may indicate a coded threat, which he voiced before, that the Catholic Church may actively campaign against independence if the demands above are not met.
The government also announced the formation of cabinet sub-committee headed by the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Its aim is to examine how to protect 'religious freedom and freedom of speech' if marriage equality was legalized and report directly to the First Minister, who will announce the way forward later this month without another cabinet meeting.
The Cardinal stated that ‘in setting up a sub-committee to examine the implications of redefining marriage, we have at least an acknowledgement of the grave concerns raised.
‘In light of the unprecedented strength of response to the consultation paper, I remain eager to hear the outcome of the consultation and to have an indication of how the people of Scotland regard the issue.’
Speaking with Gay Star News, Stonewall Scotland director Colin MacFarlane critically replied: ‘Cardinal O’Brien’s increasingly desperate attacks suggests he knows he’s lost the argument.
‘There was no need for a referendum – but we still need real equality for all Scots.’
Tim Hopkins, chair of Scotland’s Equality Network, also responded: ‘We agree with the Scottish government that a referendum would be completely inappropriate.
‘We very much hope that the Scottish government is taking this two week delay to get the details of same-sex marriage in Scotland right.
‘We have always said that religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, should be free to decide for themselves whether or not to do same-sex marriages. Religious freedom works both ways, and it’s time the Cardinal acknowledged that religions like the Unitarians and Liberal Jews, who want to do same-sex marriages, should be free to do so.’
Many faith groups favor the same-sex marriage, in April a Faith in Marriage coalition was formed and urged politicians to lift the ban on religious same-sex marriages in Scotland.
Faith in Marriage includes members of the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, the Unitarians, Liberal Judaism, the Humanists, the Iona Community, Buddhists, the Open Episcopal Church, the Metropolitan Community Church and the Pagan Federation. In addition, it has the support of ministers from the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Speaking with GSN, Kelvin Holdsworth, Episcopal Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow said that ‘it is reassuring to hear that Alex Salmond and the Scottish Cabinet have rejected Cardinal Keith O'Brien's call for a referendum on Equal Marriage so clearly. Human rights issues should never be the matter of a referendum.
‘The Cabinet subcommittee now needs to keep a clear head in the face of great pressure from the opponents of equality.
‘Gay couples have been waiting years for equal marriage and can afford to wait for another couple of weeks to ensure that the legislation is not open to vexatious challenges from opponents of these proposals.
‘They can't, however, be expected to wait for much longer. The case for equal marriage has been made. It now needs to be legislated for at the earliest opportunity.’