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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages (SSM) in Scotland

Part 4:
2012-MAR: Responses to the Cardinal's attack.
2012-SEP: Gov. promises to introduce SSM bill.
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Continued from Part 3 of this topic

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Responses to Cardinal O'Brien's attack on SSM were strongly worded, unambiguous, and sometimes brutal:

  • 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 -- a LGBT-positive group -- 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. Many 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." 1

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2012-SEP-04: Same-sex marriage bill to be introduced into the next session of the Scottish Parliament:

A commitment to introduce the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Bill (MCPB) to legalize same-sex marriage was formally included in the legislative agenda of the Scottish Parliament for its 2012/2013 session. The session began in early 2012-SEP and is scheduled to end in late 2013-JUN.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

"We are making it absolutely clear that no Christian church or any domination [sic] for that matter, or any religion, or practitioner, or celebrant will be forced to take part in any such marriage, it will just mean people will have equality before the law. I think it’s the right thing to do -– but the parliament will debate it, and I’m sure, once we can get across the guarantee, of [religious freedom], and above all freedom of speech ... once we get across that to some of the churches, I think they will feel more reassured. ... I think it’s a debate we can have, and I think it’s a debate across the parliament, that will do the country good”." 2

Member of the Scottish Parliament, MSP Alyn Smith, welcomed the addition of the MCPB to the Parliamentary agenda. He said:

"The SNP government is leading on this issue within these isles and I’m proud to be part of that party, putting progress at its core. Marriage is, for me, about two people who love each other and it is clear to see that a majority of Scots agree with that view. While I will not myself have a vote on the legislation, I have faith in the good sense of our MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament] to decide, as our representatives, what sort of arrangements we want to live by. I now look forward to the consultation process and publication of the bill, which will be a momentous step for Scotland and our LGBT community.” 2

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2013-MAY-22: Scottish Liberal Democrat leader urged the Government to proceed with SSM bill:

Willie Rennie urged the Scottish Government to introduce a same-sex marriage bill. He said:

"Modern, progressive nations are increasingly endorsing equal marriage as the change respects people who wish to commit to each other. How we treat each other is tremendously important and a mark of a nation’s maturity.

The House of Commons has led the way on this change and have signaled their determination for equal marriage to be introduced into law. There are only a few remaining stages through the House of Lords to complete that process.

“It’s important that Scotland isn’t left behind. The Scottish Government should now set a clear timetable for the introduction of equal marriage into Scottish law so that gay people in Scotland can enjoy the same rights as those in the rest of the UK." 3

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2013-MAY-28: Scottish Government promises introduction of SSM bill:

Answering a question from Marco Biagi, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Alex Neil MSP, said that the Government intends to introduce the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) bill before the summer recess which comes at the end of 2013-JUN. 4

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Webmaster's note: Bias alert:

For every adult Scot opposed to same-sex marriage, there are more than 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 -- even as the population of Scotland increased by about 4.2%: 5

  • 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). 6

If these trends continue, the Church may evolve into 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 of 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 members.

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" is sometimes used to refer to either.) He seems to have ignored the fact that lesbians have the lowest incidence of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) of any group: lower than male gays, lower than heterosexuals of both genders, and lower than bisexuals.

He also did not appear to take this thought to what appears to be its logical conclusion: to encourage gays to enter into loving, committed monogamous relationships. Giving lesbians and gays access to marriage would seem to greatly encourage monogamous and near-monogamous relationships. This would drastically lower the average number of sexual partners that gays have, and thus greatly reduce the incidences of STIs.

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This topic continues in Part 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Stephen Gray, "Cardinal defends 'grotesque’ gay marriage comment and calls to stop 'progress'," Pink News, 2012-MAR-05, at:
  2. Scott Roberts, "Salmond: Equal marriage debate is ‘good’ for Scotland." Pink News, 2012-SEP-04, at:
  3. Scott Roberts, "Scottish Lib Dem leader urges Scotland to follow England’s lead on equal marriage," Pink News, 2013-MAY-22, at:
  4. Scott Roberts, "Scottish equal marriage bill to arrive in Parliament next month," Pink News, 2013-MAY-28, at:
  5. "Demography of Scotland," Wikipedia, as on 2013-MAY-21, at:
  6. "Same-sex relationships and the ministry," British religion in Numbers, 2011-MAY-25, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > Scotland > here

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > Scotland > here

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Copyright © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-MAR-08
Latest update: 2014-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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