Last month, the Scottish government announced that it would introduce legislation that would legalize gay marriage in both civil and religious ceremonies. The announcement sparked outrage from some religious leaders, most notably the Catholic church, despite the fact that Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasized no one would be coerced into performing ceremonies because of the new legislation.
The battle has not come to a close yet, with many members of the Scottish Catholic leadership still up in arms about the possibility of gay marriages. The first ceremonies would not be legally performed in churches until 2015, mind you, and would only apply to Scotland and not the greater UK.
The Guardian reports that Scotland’s Catholic bishops composed a letter to be read to 500 of the parishes in Scotland this month condemning gay marriage. The letter specifically draws on the rhetoric of “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman, and is intended to show the “deep disappointment” the Catholic bishops have in the Scottish government, according to the Scottish Catholic Media Office (SCMO).
The newest assault on the legislation and the Scottish government has been headed in part by Cardinal Keith O’Brien who announced his opinion on that matter at a conference this month:
The Church’s teaching on marriage is unequivocal, it is uniquely, the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that Governments, politicians or Parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality.
Cardinal O’Brien also announced that a new commission would be created to ensure that the legislation does not pass. According to SCMO, he said:
With this letter we will announce the creation of a National Commission for Marriage and the Family, a body which will be charged with promoting the true nature of marriage, it will develop an online prescence and produce materials and organise events which will help Catholic families to support and sustain marriage.
LGBT rights groups have fired back at the attack on gay marriage, urging the government to hold firm on plans to introduce marriage equality in Scotland. The Guardian notes that around two-thirds of the Scottish population are actually in favor of allowing gay marriage and the government has stated that it will continue with plans to draft the bill before the end of the year.
Officials have made it clear time and time again that the bill will not force any clergy to perform ceremonies, adding that the draft will include “conscious clauses.” What the bill will provide is the option for same-sex couples to have a religious ceremony with a pastor or minister that supports them.
LGBT rights groups have made an extremely salient point during this months-long debate. Many outspoken LGBT rights activists have pointed out that many Catholic and evangelical religious leaders are trying to impose anti-gay rhetoric on the whole of Scottish society, while gay couples hoping to have the right to experience a personal ceremony are trying to do just that: have a ceremony that celebrates their own personal lives and choices.
Tom French of the Equality Network made a statement regarding the newest Catholic attack, saying:
It is increasingly clear that the church has an anti-gay agenda that it wants to impose on the rest of society… We urge the Scottish government to stand firm on plans to introduce equal marriage and not give in to demands that would discriminate against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people.
There seems to be no indication that the Scottish government will change its intentions regarding the new bill. The same case could be made for leaders of the Catholic church in Scotland.
Photo Credit: Fabio Pozzebom