and not give in to the “anti-gay agenda” being pursued by the Catholic Church.
The call has come in response to today’s news that the Church plans to establish a National Commission for Marriage and the Family to co-ordinate what it has described as a “war on gay marriage”.
As part of the campaign the Church is calling on the government to prevent same-sex marriage being “promoted to school children”. Catholic Church media spokesperson Peter Kearney said that schools should instead teach that same-sex relationships were “harmful, risky and dangerous” and can lead to “premature death”.
The Equality Network, who campaign for Equal Marriage in Scotland, say this is “evidence of a wider anti-gay agenda” and have urged the Scottish Government not to make any concessions that would set back equality for LGBT people.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, said:
“The Catholic Church has every right to express its views, but we fundamentally disagree with their position on LGBT equality. 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 people.”
“In particular, the Equality Network would be deeply concerned at any attempt to promote an anti-gay agenda in schools. School should be a welcoming environment for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation or their family situation.”
“Schools have a duty of care to their pupils and it would clearly be wrong to allow discrimination against LGBT people in the education system. There should be no censorship of LGBT people from the school curriculum – teachers should continue to be allowed to mention LGBT people and discuss same-sex relationships where appropriate.”
The Catholic Church has campaigned against every major step towards LGBT equality, 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, 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 that it would bring forward legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry.
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 humanist bodies that actively want the right to conduct same-sex marriages include the United Reformed Church, the Quakers, the Unitarians, Liberal Judaism, Reform Judaism, and the Humanist Society Scotland.
The Equality Network says that plans to legalise same-sex marriage will not change the rules about what can be taught in schools, and that teachers will continue to be able to explain the views of religious groups during religious instruction.
A majority of MSPs and a majority of the public have said they support same-sex marriage.
In June the Equality Network announced that a majority of MSPs had signed its Equal Marriage Pledge, committing themselves to voting in favour of same-sex marriage. 74 MSPs have now said they will vote in favour, including the leaders of all the opposition parties. Just 10 MSPs remain opposed.
Opinion polls have shown consistent public support for same-sex marriage in Scotland. The most recent poll was conducted in mid-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, and the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, have all shown similar levels of support.
A Scottish Government consultation on the issue revealed that 65% of responses from within Scotland were in favour of same-sex marriage.