A senior representative of the Catholic Church in Scotland has claimed same-sex relationships are “morally defective” in a letter attacking the Scottish Government for the “profoundly unwise” decision to “equate homosexual unions with heterosexual marriage” by legalising same-sex marriage.
In the letter published in the Catholic journal The Tablet, Archbishop Mario Conti also suggests that same-sex relationships should be made illegal arguing that “while it is true that governments are not required to make all immoral actions illegal, to many it is unhelpful and unnecessary to render moral what is in itself morally defective”.
LGBT equality charity, the Equality Network, has called on the Scottish Government to “stand firm” on plans to introduce same-sex marriage, and not give in to the “anti-gay agenda” being pursued by the Catholic Church.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:
“In a free society Archbishop Conti is entitled to express his views, however offensive they may be. Thankfully most people in Scotland support same-sex marriage and disagree with the assertion that their gay friends and family members are ‘morally defective’. The Catholic Church has long campaigned against equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and for Archbishop Conti to imply that same-sex relationships should now be made illegal is evidence of a worrying anti-gay agenda.”
The Equality Network points out that the Catholic Church has campaigned against every major step towards LGBT equality in the UK, including the introduction of an equal age of consent, the repeal of Section 28, Civil Partnerships, same-sex adoption, and now same-sex marriage.
In December 2011, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic said that there should be no laws that “facilitate” same-sex relationships:
“The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions.”
The Scottish Government announced in July 2012 that it would bring forward legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry. The draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill was launched for consultation in December and a final version is expected to be introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Summer 2013.
Under the plans no religious body will be required to conduct same-sex marriages, but those that do want to will be able to. Religious and belief bodies that actively want the right to conduct same-sex marriages include the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, the Unitarians, Liberal Judaism, Reform Judaism, Buddhists, the Metropolitan Community Church, the Iona Community, the Open Episcopal Church, the Pagan Federation, and the Humanist Society Scotland.
A majority of MSPs and a majority of the public have said that they support same-sex marriage.
Two-thirds of MSPs have now signed the Equality Network’s ‘Equal Marriage Pledge’ committing themselves to voting in favour of same-sex marriage. Signatories include First Minister Alex Salmond, all Cabinet Ministers, and the leaders of all four opposition parties. Whilst 88 MSPs have now said they will vote in favour, just 10 remain publicly opposed.
Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage across Scotland. The most recent poll in Scotland was conducted in June by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Equality Network. It showed record support with 64% of Scots in favour of a change in the law, and just 26% opposed. Separate polls conducted over the past two years by Populus, YouGov, Angus Reid, ComRes, and the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, have all shown similar levels of support.
Most countries around Scotland already have same-sex marriage, including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. The French Government have pledged to bring forward legislation soon.