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Scotland ‘needs faith opt-out from Westminster’ for equal marriage

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  1. This strikes me as being the legal issue the cabinet need resolving before a decision.

    However, they can bring forth new legislation which then requires amendment (for Scotland) at a Westminster level – this happens frequently.

    It rarely (if ever) requires a Westminster vote – and in this instance would require a Statutory Instrument, which is effectively rubber stamping by a Westminster level Secretary of State. This is already built into existing devolution law.

    There is also the choice of seeking executive devolution on this matter – which the SG are able to request on reserved matters (of which equal opportunities is one, although marriage itself is not).

    I think the handling of this by the SG has been appalling, but this leaked email is not in the slightest bit worrying – in fact, its encouraging as it shows the SG have thought about the required legal process – they clearly understand what they need to do to ensure equal marriage. They however, do not understand how to

    1. manage media or public expectation.

      1. if anything it shows that it is going to go ahead they just want to remove legal barriers.

        1. Thats my gut feeling ;-)

  2. Robert in S. Kensington 19 Jul 2012, 12:33pm

    “For example, how would a Scottish same-sex marriage be recognised in England if the couple moved south of the border? How would equality law (which is Britain-wide) work for same-sex marriages? ”

    As if the answer isn’t obvious! Those Scottish same-sex marriages, assuming Scotland passes equal marriage before England would be downgraded to civil partnerships. Why is that so difficult to figure out? The UK should have done what France did, recognise same-sex marriages even though French gay couples can’t yet marry. It would have pathed an easier path to equal marriage and removed a lot of the hateful rhetoric and opposition that is being fomented with every passing day that the foot-dragging and delays around the issue in Westminster are producing. The longer the process takes, and I can appreciate the necessity to get it right before a vote is taken, is not helping the situation, but emboldening the opposition.

    1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2012, 12:58pm

      Of course the best solution would be that Scottish same-sex marriages would be recognised in England and Wales as marriages! Just like in Mexico, where same-sex marriages are only available in the state of Mexico City, but are recognised in other states.

      A much less good solution would be to downgrade Scottish same-sex marriages to CPs in the rest of Britain.

      Either way requires some amendment to English law. Essentially the general form of solution of these issues needs to be agreed between the Scottish and UK Govts in the next 6 months if it is not to hold up the Scottish equal marriage bill. The amendments to English and UK law don’t need to be made until after the Scottsh equal marriage act has been passed, in the gap between it passing and coming into effect. And as Stu said, the amendments can be made by statutory instrument.

    2. But they seem only to be “barriers” in the sense that the Roman church has said they are. Which, to my mind, is according that church a great deal too much attention, and doesn’t bode well.

  3. So the church needs an ‘opt out’ clause. Opt out of what? reality? society? the modern world? humanity?
    Many sensitive people were upset when black people were allowed to ride at the front of the bus, but they weren’t given an opt out clause.
    I wonder if they’ll provide the same opt out clause for individual priests? For example, if a catholic priest wanted to conduct a same sex marriage would he be permitted and protected from being dismissed because of it? If they allow an opt out for an individual who doesn’t agree with their church’s support for equal marriage, then it should only fairly work the other way too.

  4. Robert is 100% spot on.

    It strikes me that the Equality Network is not fighting its corner very well.

    Judge for yourself:-

    http://goo.gl/Vo9b1

    1. I hardly think an article written by a third party is a good way to judge. For all we know a lot more has been said and the author of the article has decided to use only the bits they have.

      From what I’ve seen on TV, newspaper reports, and through the EN network themselves they have certainly been putting themselves about to try and influence this debate. Unfortunately they can’t control how these actions are reported so it may seem like there is less going on than is actually true in reality

      1. I was referring to the TV debate on that link.

        1. the equality network’s loyalities clearly lie with the SNP who fund them

          http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/02/15/businessman-who-supported-section-28-pledges-500000-to-the-snp/

        2. George Anthony 19 Jul 2012, 9:04pm

          Maybe the Equality Network’s loyalties do lie with the SNP, who funds them.

          http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/02/15/businessman-who-supported-section-28-pledges-500000-to-the-snp/

    2. Equality Network 19 Jul 2012, 1:17pm

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one! The position of all the main partners in the equal marriage campaign in Scotland (ourselves, Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament) is that religious bodies should be free to choose for themselves whether or not to conduct same-sex marriages. Those that want to, should be able to; those that don’t, should be able to opt out.

      1. And your position on individual celebrants is what?

        1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2012, 1:41pm

          Please see my reply to you below!

      2. Yes, but ECHR recently concluded that “if gay couples are allowed to marry, any church that offers weddings will be guilty of discrimination if it declines to marry same-sex couples.” So who runs the country, the courts or the church?

        1. No Doug, thats what religious bigots manipulate the ECHR ruling to mean – that is NOT what the ECHR said.

          Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that “Men and women of marriageable age” have the “right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.” However, in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Schalk and Kopf v. Austria that it would not force states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

          This was hardly a surprise; the Council of Europe includes strongly Catholic states such as Italy which would not have countenanced Strasbourg telling them to legalise gay marriage (the court caused enough controversy be nearly banning Christian crosses in Italian schools) and therefore this issue has been left within the ambit of the court’s “margin of appreciation” doctrine. Given that it specifically refers to “men and women”, the court was unpersuaded that Article 12 could be read as

          1. including a union between two people of the same sex. It observed:

            “Although, as it noted in Christine Goodwin [a case against the UK relating to transsexual rights], the institution of marriage has undergone major social changes since the adoption of the Convention, the Court notes that there is no European consensus regarding same-sex marriage. At present no more than six out of forty-seven Convention States allow same-sex marriage”

            Religious bodies frequently (and incorrectly) make reference to an interesting comment in Schalk which clearly left the door ajar for future claims under the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which sets out in a single text the range of rights available to European Citizens and which became binding in December 2009. The Charter deliberately dropped the reference to men and women. The court concluded:

            61. Regard being had to Article 9 of the Charter [“The right to marry and the right to found a family shall be guaranteed in accordance with

          2. the national laws governing the exercise of these rights”], therefore, the Court would no longer consider that the right to marry enshrined in Article 12 must in all circumstances be limited to marriage between two persons of the opposite sex. Consequently, it cannot be said that Article 12 is inapplicable to the applicants’ complaint. However, as matters stand, the question whether or not to allow same-sex marriage is left to regulation by the national law of the Contracting State.

            It is important to remember that in its own commentary, which explicitly referred to by the Court at paragraph 25 of Schalk, the Charter of Fundamental Rights carefully qualified the right by stating that there is “no explicit requirement that domestic laws should facilitate such marriages”.

            Schalk also stated, at paragraph 99:

            “same-sex couples are just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into stable committed relationships. Consequently, they are in a relevantly

          3. similar situation to a different-sex couple as regards their need for legal recognition and protection of their relationship

            Taking these developments together – and I agree that they are developments, particularly in light of the Charter – the Church concludes:

            “there would be a serious prospect of a successful challenge to that arrangement under article 14 taken in conjunction with article 12, on the basis that same-sex couples were being discriminated against in relation to matter that was within the ambit of article 12.”

            The Church’s reasoning is forceful and interesting. I expert it was written by a lawyer with relevant experience, perhaps James Dingemans QC, It should be taken seriously.

            One issue I have with the response is that the warning in the introduction: ”it must be very doubtful whether limiting same-sex couples to non-religious forms and ceremonies could withstand a challenge under the European Convention on Human Rights “ This does not really

          4. match up with “serious prospect of a successful challenge” at paragraph 32 or indeed the “good prospect of success” at 38.

            It may be that once a state decides to implement gay marriage, the court will be less cautious in ruling on how exactly the rules are implemented. But, a claimant would still face very significant hurdles. It is clear from Schalk is that the European Court of Human Rights is still a long way from seeking to dictate how states should or should not legislate for gay marriage.

            Whilst the Church is correct to highlight that Schalk was about a state where there was no gay marriage at all, even with the innovation of Article 9 of the Charter and the involvement of Article 14 (anti-discrimination), the Court is still likely to give individual states a wide margin of appreciation as to how it legislates for gay marriage, particularly in the highly sensitive religious context. An analogy might be drawn with prisoner voting, an issue which is also highly controversial,

          5. where the court has recently re-emphasised that whilst indiscriminate bans are not allowed, states have a very wide range or possibilities as to how they let prisoners vote.

            Reading the small print, the Church is not arguing that if a legal challenge was successful then all religious institutions would be forced to conduct gay marriages. That really would be fanciful. Rather, it would be open for them to do so. The Church fears that this would require “a considerable amount of further legislative provision” in order to “protect the position of the Church of England and other religious bodies”.

            They may be right on this, but this is hardly a reason to ditch the plans, if all that the Church is really concerned about is the potential (and still unlikely) need for new legislation at some distant point in the future – and it would be some way in the future before a claimant manages to take their case to Strasbourg and win.

            Indeed, this is actually similar to what happened in respect

          6. of civil partnerships. Originally, they were not allowed to happen on religious premises, but since December 2011 that ban has been lifted. At the time religious authorities expressed concerns that they would be forced to conduct civil ceremonies, but this blog doubted that prospect.

            A reasonable expectation would be that, as was the case with civil partnerships, once the equal marriage proposals are implemented and the sky does not fall in, the ban on marriages taking place on religious premises will be lifted in due course too. Given the melodrama which surrounded the introduction of civil partnerships, and the non-catastrophe which followed, I tend to agree with this excellent New Yorker editorial:

            “One day, not long from now, it will be hard to remember what worried people so much about gay and lesbian couples committing themselves to marriage.”

            So the Church may be right about a potential human rights challenge to the changes as proposed in the Equal Marriage

          7. Consultation. But it has inflated the chances of the challenge succeeding. More importantly, even if such a challenge was successful, it is inconceivable that a court would force any religious institution to perform a gay marriage; the most that it would do is rule that religious organisations should be given the choice. This is hardly earth shattering. The Church’s concerns may be real but they should not be a bar to the proposals becoming a reality.

        2. The ECtHR (European Court of Human Rights) has no power other then interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the decision is not binding. It is not part of the EU which has its own court (ECJ) which is binding on all member states.

          The court stated that when more signatories of the convention recognise a same sex union as a marriage then it will change the interpretation of the convention.

          Once again progress is denied by our backwards european neighbors

          1. That was one part of the Schalke ruling that was positive (albeit at a snails pace) that it signposted to future change of interpretation.

          2. The ECoHR has been incorporated into EU law too.

            The relevant issue at the ECtHR is religious freedom, since the “morality” that states are allowed to use in deciding exclusion from marriage is in fact the religious belief of only one section of society, and denies the belief of others, as is explicit in the Hansard reports on the UK CP legislation. But that is swept away once a state has decided to allow same-sex marriage. It arises again, in a different way, if a country allows equal civil marriage but deny religious equal marriage.

            That should have been considered in the Austrian, Schalk case, but the ECtHR bench failed to get around to it. Probably for the same reason it found against same-sex marriage in any case – that the 3 judge panel included the Russian judge, who always votes against any LGBT advance.

          3. oatc

            Nothing you say suggests that the article 9 protections would not exist to ensure that both those religious organisations that do not wish to perform marriages of same sex couples are not forced to AND that who wish to are not prohibited from doing so.

            Those protections very much exist.

    3. Yes, John Deighan (catholic church rep), the Catholic Church is bigoted and hate-fueled towards gay people. Please see the following quote, which is taken straight from the Vatican’s website!! (link to full document at the bottom)

      “Section II. POSITIONS ON THE PROBLEM OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS”, Bullet Point 5 (end of 2nd paragraph)”

      “Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil”

      http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

    4. george anthony 19 Jul 2012, 5:49pm

      @dave

      you could be right about the equality network they have not always fought homophobia when its connected to SNP

      http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/02/15/businessman-who-supported-section-28-pledges-500000-to-the-snp/

  5. I dont think it will take long for the Scottish Governemnt to get the information they need. But i dont see how religious organisaions are so scared there going to be forced to conduct ceremonies?? I mean who is going to force them no one? Its not like LGBT couples will want to get married in a church where the church members look down on them.

    1. Maybe two former vicars, for example, who want to marry in church may take them on.

      1. As my reply above to you explains the European Court will not force any religious organisation to act against their religious conscience (under article 9 protection). However, they well state that article 9 should not prevent those religious bodies who wish to engage from being able to marry the two former vicars you suggest. There will be the opportunity to then have the religious ceremony they seek – without forcing any indiviudal denomination, celebrant or kirk to do something it believes is wrong (misguidedly) or prevent a kirk, celebrant or denomination from doing what it (correctly) believes is right.

        1. Ahh i see. Never relised that. Thanks :)

  6. If only the Equality Act of 2010 also nicknamed “Harman’s” law included religious protections for future bills on gay marriage, we wouldn’t be having this problem :(

  7. I just can not seem to get my head around the fact that some see the need to opt out of civil rights. The fact that they are called rights should mean the do not have to be discussed and voted on and opted out of. I thought this was the 21st century, guess we are still in the dark ages when it comes to equality.

  8. Equality legislation is supposed to lessen discrimination. Adding ‘get out’ clauses to the legislation defeats its purpose.

    If you have conscience clauses for celebrants who don’t want to marry same-sex couples, then equally we should have conscience clauses for celebrants who DO wish to marry same-sex couples (against their religion’s dogma) – It’s only fair,

    Robert makes the point perfectly.

    1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2012, 1:41pm

      If I’ve understood you correctly, I think you’re proposing that religious bodies should fully opt in, with all their celebrants doing same-sex marriages. One problem with that is that there are progressive churches, such as the United Reformed Church, that want to do same-sex marriages, but don’t want to require all their ministers to do them. They would start doing them tomorrow if the law was in place and they could allow their individual ministers to opt in or out. But if the law were to say that if you opt in as a church, all your ministers must do them, it will be many more years before they would consider opting in!

      1. Given that under current law no minister of religion is obliged to marry any couple they feel their religious conscience can not permit, then I see no reason for this to change under equal marriage legislation.

        This is a cautious and (in my opinion unnecessary) safety net for the SG. However, the practicality of ensuring such a safety net should not bar progress on equal marriage by the SG. Any further delay is not due to Westminster, as SI’s will be granted, it is down to the SG intransigence if there are further delays.

        1. It really annoys me that no laws are required to protect churches against being forced to carry out straight marriages, yet when it comes to same sex marriage, we can’t get it until such laws are put into place.

          Double standards again.

          1. Even if it doesn’t impede progress of the SG’s equal marriage legislation, the fact they will only go ahead with equal marriage when religions get an opt out is outrageous!

            I guarantee that if religions couldn’t get these opt outs, then Salmond wouldn’t even be considering equal marriage.

            The SNP only seem to support gay equality when religions aren’t affected or they get an opt out. When it comes to a direct choice bwtween the 2, religion wins with the SNP every time, like with St. Margaret’s adoption agency.

            Doesn’t it bother anyone else that St. Margaret’s is still able to legally refuse service to gay people? It’s the only adoption agency in Britain that can do so, and it’s thanks to the SNP government.

      2. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 2:26pm

        No you didn’t understand him correctly at all. He’s saying that if a priest is to have a right , as a matter of individual religious liberty and conscience, to refuse to conduct same sex marriages after his denomination has decided that such marriages are acceptable, then conversely, it is just as much a matter of individual religious liberty and conscience for a priest to be allowed to perform one, even if his denomination has decided it is not acceptable. In other words, if it is a matter of individual conscience, rather than church policy, it cuts both ways.

        1. Absolutely it should go both ways.

          However, as ministers and celebrant of religion already have the freedom through article 9 to refuse to conduct a ceremony that is against their religious conscience – no further legal protection is necessary,.

          They can already refuse to marry previously divorced people. That choice exists. So, for those who wish to marry same sex couples (as in those who wish to marry (some or all) divorcees) they should be able to. In the same way those who feel (in their conscience) unable to marry same sex couples or divorcees should be able to exercise their religious freedom.

          1. Stu, if I’ve understood what you’ve said correctly, then no churches will ever be forced to marry a same sex couple even without these ammendements? The laws already exist to prevent it from happening. Is that right?

            If so, then the SNPs insistence on ammending the existing equlity laws is unneccessary. So why are they intent on doing so? Is it just that they are being over cautious or is it for some other reason, such as giving them an excuse to drop it further down the line and blame Westminster – that’s my biggest worry now.

          2. My understanding of the law on this is such that the European courts would not force a church to marry a same sex couple in any circumstances. This is based on reputable legal opinion from various sources (including Liberty, ECHR rulings, some religious organisations and various QC’s) as well as my own interpretation.

            The only reason I can conceive that the SG are going down this route (if indeed they are, and their lack of openness to the public and media about their intentions makes this difficult to judge for certain); is that the SG would then be seen to have done everything possible (including going the extra mile) to ensure that what the law already says is reinforced. In my view trying to appease those who reject equal marriage by being able to say – the law already supported your religious freedoms, but we have reinforced them.

          3. Maybe your’e right, Stu, and the SNP are just being as careful as they can, I honestly don’t know anymore!

            We’ve had so many rumours and half truths surface in the last few days that we don’t know what’s going on. And as you say, it’s the SNP’s secretive nature that’s causing it.

            I can’t help but feel cynical about it, though! I feel Salmond is setting up a get out clause, which he’ll announce in a few months, blaming evil Westminster, of course for his government being unable to introduce equal marriage.

            I don’t want to sound patronising or offensive, and I apologise in advance if I come across as such, but perhaps people who don’t live in Scotland just aren’t fully aware of what the SNP is truly like. I’ve been familiar with them since I was a teenager, though.

          4. BennieM

            As an Englishman, I didn’t take your comments as being patronising!

            Although I do try to keep abreast of Scottish affairs (I am a Northumbrian by birth and half Scottish by lineage!)

            It could be seen from the other side too though – perhaps those who are not Scottish or as closely affected by the SG decisions are able to see it from a dispassionate view and gain some perspective?

            I understand you being cynical – I strongly believe in the end you will see the outcome you and I both want to see.

          5. I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t patronising! And I do see your point about my perhaps being too close to it.

            But what I was trying to say is that people who live in England, for example, maybe don’t know as much as about the SNP as people in Scotland do, and why should they? The SNP is a purely Scottish political party.

            I have to admit to not knowing anything about Plaid Cymru, for example, except of course that they are in favour of Welsh independence. But I couldn’t tell you what their policies on gay issues are at all.

        2. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 2:49pm

          They say: “I expect we will say that the Equality Act 2010 needs to be amended to provide full protection for individual celebrants who are opposed to same-sex ceremonies, even if their religious body has decided to opt in to carrying out such ceremonies.”

          Conversely they could have said:
          “I expect we will say that the Equality Act 2010 needs to be amended to provide full protection for individual celebrants who wish to carry out same-sex ceremonies, even if their religious body has decided to opt out of such ceremonies.”

  9. The leaked email is just a stunt to slow things down and confuse things. I don’t think there will be any adjustment to the Equality Act, especially as Nick Clegg and Yvette Cooper are all for a religious element to be included in English legislation.

    1. Any amendment to the Equality Act by statutory instrument could be applied in a manner as to be relevant to Scotland only – as with other amendments to Westminster legislation that respond to SG legislation.

      In a sense what Clegg and Cooper wish to seek for England & Wales (which I support) is not relevant in Scotland (unless the SG choose to make it so) and would be no reason to prevent an SI to meet the SG perceived requirements.

      There is a reasonable amount of law where Westminster legislation has been amended by SI and Scottish interpretation of Westminster law would vary from that in England & Wales. There is no reason this could not be the case in the instance of equal marriage. That being so, there is no reason that the concerns expressed in this email would be either a barrier or a delay to SG legislation on equal marriage.

      1. What about what Lord Neuberger said: “The legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy, such as the United Kingdom, include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions.”

        1. In his ruling this was in relation to someones employment as a registrar of births and marriages for a local authority. Whilst the employee may have religious beliefs, the employer does not. The ruling was about local authority services which would not be exempt on religious grounds under the equalitys act – as the local authority is not a religious body. However, a church is a religious body. A priest, vicar, celebrant etc would be performing a religious ceremony (which a registrar of births and marriages is not) and thus article 9 and the equalities act would grant exceptions.

          The speech of Lord Neuberger is not relevant to religious bodies – as they have the very exemption he refers to. He did not say there were no exemptions – he said they were very limited, religious ceremonies being one of the exemptions. Of course, religious ceremonies do not occur in registry offices so the case of Ladelle does not receive the limited exemption.

          In any event, the SG can request an SI to

          1. gain the varying (for Scotland) of the Equalities Act – it would then be for Scottish courts to determine how they interpreted such a variance. The European courts to whom any HR appeal may be asked rule about, would respect religious freedom in line with article 9 – and have already clearly said so – and this is detailed above.

        2. Furthermore other comments (which are often not considered by the church) which relate to the same ruling appear to suggest that article 9 is very much respected (in an appropriate setting – which it would be difficult to argue that a religious ceremony should be subject to protection under freedom of religion provisions!):

          “Article 9 does not require that one should be allowed to manifest one’s religion at any time and place of one’s own choosing”

          “Ladele’s proper and genuine desire to have her religious views relating to marriage respected should not be permitted to override Islington’s concern to ensure that all its registrars manifest equal respect for the homosexual community as for the heterosexual community”

          “Pichon and Sajous v France Application 49853/99 (2 October 2001), the Strasbourg Court pointed out that “the main sphere protected by Article 9 is that of personal convictions and religious beliefs” although it “also protects acts that are closely linked to those matters

          1. such as acts of worship or devotion forming part of the practice of a religion or a belief”. Accordingly, the article did not protect pharmacists who claimed that their “religious beliefs justified their refusal to sell contraceptives” as “the sale of contraceptives is legal and occurs nowhere other than in a pharmacy”, and the pharmacists could “manifest [their] beliefs in many ways outside the professional sphere.””

            “Sahin v Turkey (2007) 44 EHRR 5, the Grand Chamber held that there had been no violation of article 9, when a University refused admission to lectures or tutorials, and refused enrolment on courses, to students with beards or Islamic headscarves.”

            “Article 9 does not protect every act motivated or inspired by a religion or belief. Moreover, in exercising his freedom to manifest his religion, an individual may need to take his specific situation into account”

            All of these show that in the correct sphere of influence religious freedom is protected. E.g. a church,

          2. mosque, synagogue or private worship etc – but not in the workplace as a public servant.

            Thus ministers of religion or celebrants would be protected (especially in religious ceremonies such as marriage) but registrars, pharmacists etc may not be if there was no connection or greater public legitimacy to their claim of freedom of religion.

  10. But I thought the British Government had ALREADY addressed this issue and had received legal opinion that there was no legal right to contest the views of the established church using existing equality legislation?

    Are you sure Alex Salmond isn’t using this so called issue as a “get out of jail free” card?

    1. Equality Network 19 Jul 2012, 1:48pm

      It remains to be seen what the Scottish Government’s position on equal marriage is – they haven’t told anyone yet! They’ve promised to tell us all by the end of this month, so we’ll make a judgement then.

      On equality legislation, you’re right it was addressed some years ago. However it appears from the leaked email that there may be a specific gap in the law affecting religious bodies that want to allow their own ministers to each choose whether to do same-sex marriages or not. We think that’s what the email is referring to when it mentions that equality law may need amendment.

      Again though we won’t actually know, until the Scottish Govt makes its position known.

      1. It really annoys me that they haven’t made their position known.

        I still don’t understand why they didn’t say right at the beginning that they intend to legislate, but had to have a consultation to get the details right – just like the coalition government did. As it is, Salmond is still talking about getting the decision right.

        Why are our rights even up for discussion and decision? Fair enough that the details need to be discussed and decided on, but not the rights themselves.

        1. I agree

          I believe that they have totally mishandled the public expectation and media surrounding this issue.

          I am not convinced this means that they are seeking to prevent equal marriage – and I actually believe they are looking at the minutiae that are required (in their view) to enable legislation to occur. That is what this email shows.

          It does not act as a barrier or impediment to legislation in Holyrood and no further delay is reasonable or excusable.

          1. You’re right, Stu, that it doesn’t mean the SNP government are seeking to prevent equal marriage. I can see that point of view.

            But even if that is the case, then it still means the SNP only want to give us equal marriage on condition that religions get an opt out.

            What would happen if these opt outs couldn’t be applied for some reason? Would the SNP still support equal marriage then? I really don’t think so.

            And part of me is really worried that the SNP will use this as an excuse to drop it later on, saying they want to legislate for equal marriage but are being prevented from doing so by Westminster.

  11. Robert in S. Kensington 19 Jul 2012, 1:43pm

    Religious denominations already have choices to not marry anyone they think doesn’t comport with their religious ethos. The CoE doesn’t marry divorced people. Not so long ago, it was mulling church marriage for regular worshippers only and those who weren’t, would have to go elsewhere. I can’t believe that in this day and age of digital communications that some of these antiquated institutions still believe they’re going to be forced to do something against their will or ethos. How many times does the government in Westminster for example have to spell it out for them. The consultation in London and the many assurances by MPs that no religious denomination will be forced to recognise or officiate is more than enough. The opposition is just delaying the inevitable and they know it. There isn’t one country where equal marriage is legal in which religious denominations are forced to perform same-sex marriages. How much clearer does it get?

    1. As you say, Robert, churches are not forced to marry straight couples, they can refuse to do so for any number of reasons.

      Yet nobody is suggesting that the churches need extra laws to stop them being forced to marry straight couples.

      So why do churches need extra laws to protect them against being forced to carry out same sex marriages?

      Once again, there are different rules and laws for gay people. That isn’t equality at all.

      1. Robert in S. Kensington 19 Jul 2012, 3:54pm

        Totally agree, BennieM. This is yet another excuse to delay, delay, delay. I won’t be surprised if a similar situation occurs in Westminster. We’re supposed to get the result of the consultation at the end of the year but I bet it will be postponed until 2013.

        Religious denominations already enjoy more rights than us so this is just an exercise in futility and caving in to religious bigotry. They just don’t want us to marry, simple as that and they’ll do or say anything, even if untrue, to make sure it doesn’t happen.

  12. James As Well 19 Jul 2012, 1:51pm

    ” lessons which might be sensitive.”

    Ridiculous.

  13. There are a few things I don’t like about this. The first is that once again, gay equality is only going ahead when the churches get an opt out first.

    Secondly, I worry about the bit saying individual celebrants should have an opt out even if their church agrees with equal marriage. Would a civil registrar get an opt out too? I doubt it. Why does a religious person get extra rights?

    Also, marriage law is devolved, and straight marriage in Scotland has always been different to that in England. Yet when it comes to same sex marrige, everyone is suddenly concerned about making sure it’s the same as in England. Why is it different for gay people yet again?

    I’m fast losing patience with religions getting an opt out over gay equality. They are not above the law, yet governments fall over themselves to put them above the law.

    I’ve got a bad feeling that Salmond will end up dropping it and blame Westminster for not ammending the UK equality laws.

    1. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 19 Jul 2012, 4:58pm

      Unfortunately, religions are already above the law when it comes to equality. They are permitted plenty of sexism and homophobia, e.g. gender segregation in houses of worship, refusal to ordain women or anyone LGBT, inferior roles for women, and I think they’re even permitted to conduct exorcisms on LGBT people (which should surely be legally considered abuse). There’s a ranking system, and religion is considered to trump gender or sexuality.

      1. It’s high time someone put a bloody stop it, isn’t it?

        1. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 20 Jul 2012, 6:34pm

          The problem is that it would be immensely difficult to do so. If we forced religions to follow the Equality Act, there would be such enormous disruption that we would effectively be banning various religions, and there would be international outcry. The gender segregation in Orthodox Judaism and Islam is based on ritual purity laws (stemming from menstruation taboos in this instance), and that sort of thing is very, very hard to go against, it’s an integral part of how those faiths are practised. I would love to see such segregation abolished, but I acknowledge that in practical terms it’s impossible for the foreseeable future.

          I think this is why the equal marriage debate is stirring up such anxiety. No one wants to admit that there’s a ranking system, that religions are given free rein when it comes to this sort of thing, and that’s why everyone is so jumpy about it. It may explain why much of the debate from the other side has involved such crazy, unrealistic ideas as well.

          1. It is equally why equal marriage is such an important objective. It won’t end discrimination, but its the summit, after which the fight ceases to be uphill, and becomes a mopping-up operation. And that’s why our opponents are fighting so hard and dirty.

  14. Yes, John Deighan (catholic church rep), the Catholic Church is bigoted and hate-fueled towards gay people. Please see the following quote, which is taken straight from the Vatican’s website!! (link to full document at the bottom)

    “Section II. (CATHOLIC) POSITION ON THE PROBLEM OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS”, Bullet Point 5 (end of 2nd paragraph)”

    “Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil”

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20030731_homosexual-unions_en.html

  15. Pretty good idea, so gays are free to do what the hell ever they want, but if the church doesn’t approve of their marriage, then it’s their freedom and they’re protected by the law, sounds good.

  16. Does anyone know if there ever has been a case in the UK of a straight couple being refused marriage by a church and taking it to court?

    1. I will go and check again, but when this was played out a few weeks ago in the English & Welsh consultation – I looked at a mix of ECHR, ecclesiastical court and other court decisions and could find very few cases and none successful. I will check again though.

      1. The one case I thought was attempted never even reached court – it was threatened in the media but numerous legal advisors at the time said there was no case that could legitimately be presented as a minister of religion was free to act in line with their conscience about who to marry or not.

        1. Thanks for the info, Stu. So surely there would be no realistic chance of a same sex couple being successful in suing a church for refusing to marry them under existing laws?

          It really annoys me that gay people are still being treated differently to straight people, especially when this move is supposed to be about giving us equality!

          This whole thing is so bloody frustrating! It’s making me fear the worst again!

          1. Highly unlikely to succeed – and should it be presented in such a manner in the English (or Scottish) courts, then there could be appeal (by either side regarding the case) to the European courts. The ECHR have already indicated that they will protect freedom of religion under article 9.

          2. So no real need to amend the UK equality legislaton in order for the Scottish Governement to legislate for equal marriage?

          3. In my view, no real need.

  17. conducting ceremonies against their will is one thing … letting out their church hall on a non-discriminatory basis is quite another

    1. Doesn’t that show up the absurdity of these religious opt outs? They can refuse to marry a same sex couple but can’t refuse to let their church hall to that same couple for their wedding reception! It’s bloody ridiculous!

      1. but it means they are getting money, religions are always happy to look the other way if they are getting money.

  18. it’s stupid that this is needed

  19. So, am I clear, the government of the people of Scotland considers the dogma of individual religious organizations to take precedence over the rights of each and every one of its citizens?

    IS that what is being proposed, and largely approved of, even here?

    1. That’s how I see it, graham, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the SNP have put the right of religions to hate over the right to equality for gay people.

  20. Does a similar opt out clause exist for registrars who have an invisible friend who tells them not to marry mixed race couples?
    really? no?
    So why should religibigots be allowed to discriminate like this?

  21. Am I alone in wondering why someone’s absurd delusions should be accorded the slightest consideration, let alone a get-out clause?

    Rather than being accommodated, they need a slap to being them out of their self-induced hallucinatory state. :)

    1. No, you’re not alone. It’s stupid. But there’s an unexamined cultural prejudice in favour of religious people. That needs to change.

  22. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 3:07pm

    Proposals that only allow for an opt OUT for individual celebrants, against the policy of their church, directly discriminate against other celebrants who which to opt IN against the policy of their church, of which there are many (going by their letters to the press).

    The proposal gives the beliefs of religious opponents a higher status than that of religious supporters. That is unacceptable.

    1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 3:27pm

      Say, for example, 50% of Church of Scotland vicars want to be able to carry out same sex marriages for members of their flock, but 50% want to be able to refuse. Say the law has changed already. Under current policy, none of the 50% who want to carry out ssm’s will be allowed to, no matter how much their conviction and conscience support the idea. On the other hand, if the Church changes it’s policy to carry them out, suddenly 50% can opt out, purely because their belief is the opposite of their colleagues.

      This means that the state is judging the nature of their religious beliefs regarding ssm, and giving a privilege to opponents, that they are not giving to supporters. To me this seems contrary to the principle of religious liberty, and also sends a wrong message, a message that equal marriage is something to be “protected from”, rather than something that some (most) support, and some don’t.

      1. You’re right, it not only flies in the face of equality, it flies in the face of religious freedom too – because it negatively affects those religious people who are in favour of equal marriage.

        1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 3:38pm

          Yes, it makes their beliefs 2nd class to those of the opponents of ssm, in the eyes of the state and the law.

          1. And we gays are 3rd class, right behind them all!

  23. Vincent Bradley 19 Jul 2012, 3:23pm

    Why not afford Anglican clergy the same rights as all other religious leaders and be able to refuse to marry anyone on the grounds of sincerity and conscience? As a Unitarian, I want the right for my Minister to be able to conduct the same kind of ceremony for a gay couple as she could for a straight one.

    Unitarians, like the United Reformed Church and some other denominations do not have Ministers imposed from above in any way, shape or form. Individual congregations choose their own worship leader (who need not have a degree in theology), so the representative regional and national council bodies cannot compel a Minister to do anything. It is always a matter for the individual congregation and Minister to determine what the Minister can and cannot do in terms of conducting religious ceremonies.

    The purpose of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (as with the General Assembly of the URC) is to provide a united voice for its members and pool resources.

  24. Special laws to be passed against gay people and gay people only? What kind of apartheid is this? No religion has ever had to conduct any marriage if it doesn’t want to. So what’s changed? Why select out gay people as a special case for lawful discrimination?
    I am no longer interested in same-sex marriage in Scotland. The main object now is to get that blithering idiot Salmond out of office as fast as possible.

    1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 3:49pm

      They are not singled out. Churches are allowed to discriminate against women too. Look at all the chaos caused by trying to placate Church of England priests who don’t want to accept women bishops. I’m not sure if religions are allowed to racially discriminate too.

      1. They are looking to enact a law to discriminate against gay people now! That’s what the problem is. They’re trying to get rid of one piece if discrimination only to enact another. Unless they are calling to ban all form of challenge from everyone straight or gay that’s different. But this is to be used against gay people only. Straight people won’t be affected by it.
        Get it now?

        1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 4:17pm

          There are already laws that exempt them from discrimination provisions in employment, both relating to gays and women and presumably marital status too. But I understand the irony of what you’re saying.

          I wonder if in 1960s America, when mixed race marriage became legal in some states that had banned it, whether people or churches were entitled to opt out because of religious belief. Most opposition to such marriages was religious, based on creationism I think.

      2. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 19 Jul 2012, 4:53pm

        Racial discrimination is a problem in Orthodox Judaism. Most denominations, except for the Liberals, follow matrilinearity, i.e. the mother must be Jewish, and her mother must be Jewish, and so forth. Conversions are only recognised by the same denomination and those left-wing of it, so that Orthodox conversions are recognised everywhere but the Orthodox won’t recognise Liberal or Reform conversions. This means that someone who is thoroughly considered Jewish by everyone may be refused services by Orthodox Judaism if they have a Reform convert in their female line, say, or if only their father is Jewish but they have been raised in a Jewish household. (NB The Liberals would accept them as Jewish.) There was a famous case the other year with the Jewish Free School refusing entry to certain children based on these criteria, e.g. if the mother only was Jewish the child could be admitted, but not the father only. It’s treating Judaism as a very specifically defined ethnicity.

    2. Mike, we’ve got another 4 years, at least, of Salmond & Co. Remember this Scottish Parliamentary term was extended from the usual 4 years to 5 years to avoid clashing with the next Westminster general election since Nick Clegg insisted on introducing set terms for Westminster (not a bad idea in itself, but he didn’t care about it clashing with Holyrood, whose election date was set first, and of course it was Holyrood who moved to accommodate Westminster).

      The 2016 date for the next Scottish Parliament elections will stand whether Scotland votes for independence or not in 2014, as far as I know.

      In fact, I believe the SNP only got a majority in the Scottish Parliament last year because the Lib Dem votes went straight to the SNP. The SNP would still have been the biggest party, by wouldn’t have had a majority if they hadn’t picked up the disallusioned Lib Dem voters. So Nick Clegg has a lot to answer for!

    3. The Marriage Act already gives places of worship the right to not marry anyone it chooses to for not fitting their criteria. Churches already have power under the law they have just conveniently forgotten about it because they don’t use it they are more then happy to pretend that a couple is christian to get their money for the couple to get married in a church even if they have their pre-marital sex offspring with them!

  25. If you ask me, the SNP themselves have created a problem that doesn’t even exist.

    The SNP stated right from the beginning that they support equal marrige as long as no religion was forced to carry them out.

    But who ever suggested that religions would be forced to carry them out? The SNP, that’s who!

    They’ve created a problem which doesn’t exist and I’m now worried that they’ll use it as an excuse to drop the whole thing – and blame Westminster into the bargain.

    1. There worried that Religious organizations will take them to court saying thinks like they have “been forced to conduct weddings against our will “and (lies like) “the government are discriminating against us.” The Scottish Government will also worried that the religious groups would also try to gain the sympathetic vote by saying things like “look at us being treated so badly and dont vote for the SNP or independence. “

      1. You could be right, Charlie, and the SNP are just being over cautious in order to get it done right.

        On the other hand, I can’t help but fear the worst as there’s probably no need for these amendments to protect churches, as according to various people on this comments thread, the legal protections already exist.

        The fact is we don’t know which one of us is right because the SNP themselves are not being open and honest with us, so all we can do is speculate and listen to rumours and half truths. The SNP could stop it immediately by telling us what’s going on – why don’t they?

        You’ve said before that you’re an SNP member, perhaps your judgment isn’t exactly objective on this?

        I know I’ve got a history of being very cirtical of the SNP, but I’ve got no axe to grind, it’s not like I’m a Labour member or anything like that. The only party I’ve ever supported is the SNP, in fact.

        1. I see where your coming from, although im an SNP member i wouldn’t say im exactly blinded by loyalty but il admit i am a big supporter so i may be slightly clouded in my judgement. I support there many common sense policies and i can understand how they wish to be cautious, but i agree with you that they should just be honest and say that there going ahead with it, but are looking to make sure that any bill they introduce couldn’t be challenged. That way they would gain more support from progressive and LGBT folks

          1. By the way meant any (marriage bill )couldn’t be challenged. Im afraid i worded my previous comment wrongly . Sorry i have offended anyone.:(

          2. I’m not trying to tell you who to vote for, Charlie, by the way! And although I’m very critical of the SNP on gay issues, I’m not dead against them full stop. I would just like to see them put right everything they’ve done wrong on gay equality and homophobia.

          3. Im sorry for coming across as far to bossy, that was not my intention.

          4. You don’t come across as bossy at all! In fact, you’re far more polite than most people on here, including myself at times!

          5. Charlie

            You never come across as bossy (at least not from what I have seen of you on here!).

          6. Whew thanks. :) Got worried that i may have done so. When i go on about political issues i sometimes get carried away, and come across rather ruthless.

  26. Alex Salmond grovelling to Westminster. What a joke for a leader.

    1. Cause Westminster still tries to pull the strings on Scotland. So the Scottish government has to ask for there help on this, because they dont have the full powers that independent countries have.

      1. It’s not Westminster trying to pull strings, it’s just that this equality legislation is a reserved law. If Scotland was independent, then yes, all laws would be under control of the Scottish Parliament and Govenrment. But then Salmond would have nobody else to blame, would he?

        1. And it’s the SNP who is insisting that the reserved equality law needs amending as a condition of their legislating for equal marriage – so they are the ones bringing Westminster into the equation. In my view, so they’ll have an excuse to drop it.

          1. Sorry :( i meant on other polices they try to pull the strings but fail, like with the referendum. I should of made my self clearer.

          2. As far as I’m aware, constitutional matters like the independence referendum are reserved matters – meaning Westminster has responsibility for them.

            The SNP want to make sure that the equal marriage legislation is legally wrapped up, don’t they? This means working with Westminster as it involves reserved legislation.

            Perhaps the coalition government merely want to do the same with the independence referendum and make sure the legalities are all in order so the SNP can go ahead with it.

          3. I guess it was when Cameron started dictating when the date would be and stuff like that, that got me piped up. I saw this as something for the Scottish people to decide not Westminister. Though i guess there is nothing wrong with Westminister making sure that the referendum is fair . But lets hope that before 2014 marriage equality will be reality in Scotland. And England ?? :)

          4. Oh don’t get me wrong, Cameron did act all uppity over the referendum and he did try to use it to his advantage – boy did it backfire! Even ardent unionists got annoyed at that!

            And I so think the SNP do have a right to hold the referendum, as they were elected on that platform – just as they have right to carry out all their election promises.

            And I also think the referendum result should stand, whatever it is, becuase it will be what the people want.

            But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a reserved matter. Both Michael Moore & Jim Wallace have spoken of Westminster giving the power to Holyrood to make sure it’s legal, but the SNP so far have rejected that and insist it will be legal.

            I believe the SNP are worried about strings being attached to such a move, such as a time limit to hold the referendum, which I think is wrong. The power should be handed over for this term of office, no strings attached.

            But it still means that the SNP don’t want Westminster……

          5. …..to be involved in the referendum when it’s a reserved matter, yet they say they need Westminster involvement to amend the UK equality laws so they can legislate for equal marriage in Scotland – a matter which is devolved and completely under the control of the Scottish Parliament and Government.

            I feel they’re bringing this Westminster dimension into it unneccessarily. I see it as being double standards, and it worries me.

          6. If this is the case, i bet it is the work of the more socially conservative msp’s in the party tring to get there own way. Was reading up that back in the leadership contest back in 2006. There was a lot of division between Alex Salmond and Roseanna Cunningham in the race for leader, and between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Neil, apariently Nicola wanted to become leader first, but it became clear that Roseanna Cunningham would beat her. So Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon teamed up with a presidential style campaign partly designed to keep Cunningham out. So in this case i cant understand how Salmond could give away cabinet posts to folks in his party that he doesnt see eye to eye with?

          7. Of course, I’m only guessing all this, I don’t know for sure. Hopefully, I’m just thinking the worst and it won’t happen.

            It makes me feel really old to hear you say that you’ve been reading up on that leadership contest – I can clearly remember it!

            I actually wanted Roseanna Cunningham to win, as this was before I knew her homophobic views.

            If I remember correctly, she and Nicola Sturgeon were the only candidates, and Salmond ruled out standing at first. He only said he’d stand when Cunningham became the favourite.

            But, he said he wouldn’t stand against Nicola and came up with the idea of her running as his deputy. If she didn’t want to do that, he said he wouldn’t stand at all. So the ball was in Sturgeon’s court and she opted to stand down as a leadership candidate to run as his deputy.

            Apparently, Cunningham has never forgiven her, although I don’t know if that’s true.

            As for Salmond giving her a minsterial job when he doesn’t like her (if that’s indeed true)……

          8. …..that’s part and parcel of politics and it goes on in every political party. There’s the old saying about the real enemies being in your own party and to keep them close. Or she could have some clout in the party and has friends in high places, or she might be popular amongst MSPs and could sway them to rebel if she was ever pushed to do so, or something like that – again, I’m only guessing.

            My problem with his giving her a ministerial job is that he did so long after her speech in Parliament about how being gay “goes against 100 years of nature’s design” and her amendment to make it illegal for gay people to adopt.

          9. Remember that Roseanna Cunningham was the Deputy Leader of the SNP (the post Nicola Sturgeon holds now) under John Swinney’s leadership (2001 -2006, I think), so she is clearly a popular figure in the party, despite her disgusting homphobic views and actions.

          10. I had to read up on it as it was a year before i got into politics in 2007 :). I think if i were my age then i would have supported Nicola Sturgeon for leader. She is not afraid to speak her mind on the issues. . I think she would do an excellent job at the helm hopefully she will be leader… someday :(.

            Also read up on another article in 1998 Roseanna Cunningham was named Scotsgay person of the year, (Shock!!!). I bet there kicking themselves in the foot now in 2012 at how socially Conservative Roseanna Cunningham really is.

          11. Sorry, those dates when Swinney was SNP leader, and therefore when Cunningham was his Deputy, should have been 2000-2004 and not 2001-2005! I guess it’s getting late!

            I used to really admire Roseanna Cunningham before I found out her views. And I think she voted repeal Section 28 (Clause 2a) and she had appeared to be supportive of gay rights until her adoption speech in 2006.

            As for Nicola Sturgeon, I think at the moment she’s the favourite to succeed Salmond, but I think she’ll have a battle on her hands.

            Cunningham could stand again, but there are others who’d fancy their chances now, especially when they’ve got experience of being in government behind them. Alex Neil, Mike Russell and Kenny MacAskill spring to mind and that’s not even taking into account the new lot.

            So I personally don’t feel Sturgeon is a shoe-in, not by any means.

          12. I think Kenny Mccaskill would probably run on a joint ticket with sturgeon as they planned in 2006. I bet there will be a battle in 2016 or whenever Salmond retires. I doubt Cunningham would have much of a chance of wining a leadership race by then, as more and more of the Socially Conservative lot seem to be retiring and “most” of the members of the current cabinet seem to belong to the Liberal wing of the party. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joan Mcalpine the journalist, tries to make a run for the deputy leadership at some point.

          13. Basically, all politicians, of whatever party they are in want the top job. But they will very likely make deals with one another, like Blair & Brown are said to have done.

            I personally think Kenny MacAskill will want to run for the leadership, but who knows, he might stand for deputy like you suggest.

            I’d be surprised if Cunningham didn’t run again, like she did in 2004. If she did, then I still think she has a lot of support in the party, despite her conservative views.

            The only one I can guarantee will run is Nicola Sturgeon. She’s the favourite at the moment, but I think she will face a real battle.

            Of course, perhaps some newer people like Aileen Campbell could decide to run, although I think someone like her is probably more likely to be not the next leader, but the one after that. Her career is certainly on the right track, though.

            As for Joan McAlpine, I doubt she’ll even get back into Parliament next time. I hear she’s hated within the party and has only got as far…

          14. …as she has so far because of her friendship with Salmond. Every time she opens her mouth, she says something embarrassing, even by politician standards. I’d be very surprised if she went any further than she already has.

            If I have to make a prediciton now, then I would say Sturgeon will probably be the next leader, but she will face a tough time to get it. As for deputy, it’s anyone’s guess, far too early to say.

            Of course, if Scotland votes for independence, then it’s possible that the SNP won’t survive. I think voters will simply see no need for it in an independent Scotland and it will be reduced at first to a small party with just a handful of MSPs, and eventually cease altoghether. It won’t happen immediately after independence, and it may not happen at all, but I think it’s a real possibility.

            It’s ironic that Labour have predicted the end of the SNP several times in the past, and have been wrong. The most likely way for that to happen is by Scotland becoming independent!

    2. Mike

      Nice soundbite, but thats all your comment is.

      The reality is that Scotland is not independent and not all powers are devolved to it, so in the areas where Westminster retain control e.g. equal opportunities there are legitimate reasons for consulting with Westminster, seeking SI’s to amend powers in light of new Scottish legislation etc. This is not grovelling to Westminster; its dealing with the legal realities of the relationship between the two parliaments.

      Now, I think the SG are being ultra and over cautious in their handling of this (if the reports are true). Nonetheless, the reality is that the SG has to work in partnership with Westminster to get some things done. In this instance, its arguably unnecessary – but even if the SG feel it is the right thing to do for Scotland, this should not act as an impediment or delay to Scottish equal marriage legislation.

      1. It shouldn’t act as a delay or impediment, Stu, but I’ve a bad feeling it will end up doing exactly that!

      2. Oh, so Scotland has to ask Westminster if it can pass a same-sex marriage bill as well?

        1. As I understand it, the SG could pass an equal marriage Bill without any involvement from Westminster if they didn’t insist on amending the UK equality laws to enusure these unneccessary religious opt outs. While the SG do insist on these amendments, though, they’ll need to work with Westminster as it’s reserved legislation.

          That’s why I’m now really concerned that Salmond will drop it at some point blaming Westminster.

          1. If Salmond does drop SSM blaming Westminster then he has to know that the opposition will tear him apart

          2. Knowing that he’ll face a backlash won’t neccessarily stop him from doing it.

            I can’t say that he’s definitely planning this, it’s just a fear I have since learning of this latest develpoment.

            I really hope that I’ll be proved wrong, though!

        2. No, Mike

          That is not what I am saying – in fact how you are interpreting my words is the very opposite of what I am saying.

          The SG can pass an equal marriage law. I don’t think they need the extra protection of alterations to the Equalitys Act. I perceive this as being overly cautious when the protections they would be seeking through this already exist.

          However, if they do wish to seek them, then as they are reserved powers to Westminster – they have to work with the Westminster parliament to achieve them.

          I don’t think the powers that they would have to ask for Westminster support to achieve (because Holyrood does not have the power in equal opportunities – it is reserved to Westminster) are necessary, but if the SG want them – they need Westminster to co-operate. However, they can still bring forward and equal marriage bill without Westminster support, because a) they don’t need these extra protections and b) if they do feel the need for the cautious road they seem to be

          1. suggesting they might feel is necessary; then the SI can be sought after the new Scottish legislation is either in force or en route to being in force (which is what has been done up till now when Scotland requires an amendment to existing Westminster legislation due to new Scottish law).

  27. Westminster again casting its shadow over shiny Scotland. Bad karma. Bad influence.

    1. Someone showing their ignorance of Scottish Politics if they genuinely believe the SNP are influence by Westminster hullabaloo.

      1. It’s more their anti-Tory bias. I’m sure if Labour were in charge down there then this whole episode wouldn’t be happening right now of course

        1. Believe it or not, the SNP and Labour probably hate each other even more!

          1. Remember, the SNP voted with Thatcher’s Conservative party to bring down the Labour Callaghan government, which ushered in 18 years of Tory rule.

            People of a certain age in Scotland have never forgiven them for that.

            Also the SNP minority Scottish Government from 2007-2011 had an agreement with Annabel Goldie’s Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament to ensure the Tories would back the SNP minority government whenever necessary – or something like that, I can’t remember the exact details!

          2. And for years, the SNP had the nickname Tartan Tories, suggesting they had a lot in common with the Conservatives. I believe that the SNP did used to be considered socially conservative, for example.

        2. Whose anti-Tory bias, the SNP or Beberts or both?

        3. Anti-Tory bias, Huh?,,, now blame anti-Toryism for the influence of Westminster over Scotland, totally ignoring the centuries old historical and political facts … In fact, it’s pro-Tory bias that can prevent anyone from realising the reality of the facts.
          Gay Tories —-> Duhhhhh !!!!

          1. Beberts —-> duhhhhh !!!!

      2. The whole of Scotland is influenced by Westminster, SNP included. It’s just a matter of history and fact, but Westminster’s influence is swiftly dwindling … better late than never.

  28. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 19 Jul 2012, 4:49pm

    This is a total red herring. No one ever talks about forcing the Catholics to allow divorces, or forcing Orthodox Jews to marry couples who don’t meet their rigid criteria for being considered Jewish. So why is it even a possibility that religious institutions might be forced to conduct same-sex weddings? And if people are really concerned about the way religions are currently exempted from much human rights legislation, why aren’t they following up on all the issues involved, not just equal marriage?

  29. The GRA gives an exemption to clergymen/women who can now refuse to perform a marriage ceremony involving a person that they suspect might hold a GRC. This could involve legal discrimination against a non trans person!

    I do not know of any case related to this coming before the Courts.

    Can’t see the legal problem with giving cults an opt-out for equal marriage but then I am not a lawyer.

    1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 6:41pm

      What are GRA and GRC?

      1. GRC – Gender Recognition Certificate

        GRA – Gender Recognition Act

        1. Cardinal Capone 19 Jul 2012, 11:23pm

          Ok, thanks.

  30. I think the leaked email is just a delaying tactic for more time, more time for legal advisers to come up with a way to include a religious element in the proposed legislation if some churches, like the Quakers, want it. Excluding churches altogether would just cause another rammy.

  31. GulliverUK 19 Jul 2012, 7:00pm

    Section 202 of the Equality Act already covers opt-outs for Civil Partnerships. Since that has already been passed by the Lords and Commons a simple amendment to extend the scope to Marriage should not be difficult — you would think. But would that then be the point when Lords and MPs who don’t support the proposals start to kick off? And how many? Would it have enough support to pass?

  32. It is strange that when it comes to the independence referendum, the SNP are going ahead with it, with or without Westminster co-operation, despite the fact it’s a reserved matter. In fact the SNP are doing their best to make sure Westminster has no involvement at all.

    Yet when it comes to equal marriage, suddenly reserved law becomes an issue and the SNP can’t do anything without the co-operation of Westminster!

    1. Think you are taking it a step too far.

      Nothing in the leaked email says that the SG believe they can not do this without Westminster support. Whilst I think they do not need the SI from Westminster, SG seem to prefer it. That said, the email does not say that this is the only option for them.

      1. The point I’m making is that the SNP pick and choose when they need co-operation from Westminster and when they don’t.

        It’s double standards from them, and in my opinion an excuse.

        1. As you say, Stu, this option of amending the Uk equality laws is the SG’s preferred option, and I think it’s fair to ask why, when at other times they go out of their way to avoid dealing with Westminster.

          Knowing the SNP, it looks as though it could be the set-up for an excuse later on. That might not be true, but it is possible.

          1. BennieM

            It only appears to be the preferred option – we do not know this for sure due to the secrecy that the SG have clouded a lot of this in.

            To be fair to the SG, if they have real legal argument to justify the SI then regardless of their partisan views then they may legally perceive that they have to act in a particular way – and as Westminster has the ability to issue SIs relating to powers which are not devolved to Holyrood, then they would need to seek those powers from Westminster.

            Now, a note or two of caution on this, firstly, we do not know that the SI route is the SG’s preference (that is supposition from an email – which may be a historic appraisal and may not be the current thinking). Secondly, there is nothing in the email which states that they would not enact legislation for equal marriage without an SI in advance – and that is not legally necessary nor would it fit with prior experience where an SI has been sought. Finally, I understand why people are concerned

          2. about the SG position on this (and I personally think their presentation on this issue has been some of the worst by any government or politicians I have ever seen) but we do not know the plans or that this email is part of the current plans so what is effectively speculation is possibly not helpful, currently.

          3. You’re absolutely right, Vince. We are just speculating and possibly worrying about stuff that might not even happen, but if the SNP had been open all along, then we’d know their intentions.

            I’m just very suspicious of this possible new dimension of the SNP bringing Westminster into it. It sets alarm bells ringing as the SNP hate Westminster., and I can’t help but think the worst.

  33. An opt out needed from one equality law to create another equality law. That’s an Irish one.

    1. “An Irish one”

      Just the sort of inappropriate language I would expect from someone dissing equality.

      1. the irony is that Ireland is where the mostr inequality exists where the assembley uses the distinction between marriage and civil partnerships to discriminate against LGBT people – and all these english MPs say that civil partnerships convey all the same rights – their argument doesn’t hold water because westminster could do the same thing if they wanted to.

  34. Ban the Equality Act, if you homosexuals want to be equal to us heterosexuals and have what we want, then you have to behave like us. But seeing as you do not behave then you should be denied any form of equality, as you clearly are not the *same*

    I suggest going to some of Mrs Wilkinson’s Therapy classes.

    1. Yes we should all behave like “Aiden”.

      We should all post under fake names, create fake Twitter profiles, use fake pictures and then, as heterosexuals, hang around a news website for LGBT people. Because that’s how all level headed heterosexuals behave. right “Aiden”?

    2. And that shows Aidens attitude and lack of awareness

      Equality is not about being all the same

      Note to self: Further email to PN about the troll!

    3. Will you punish us, Aiden, for not behaving? A big, strapping bloke like you! Oh, I love it when you talk down to us, it really gets me off!

      1. I am partial to a bit of spanking by a big strong man ;)

        1. Kinky! ;-)

          1. I was hoping a different approach would scare him off. I guess PN’s attempts at blocking him the other day didn’t work. I’m sure they’ll find some way to keep him under his bridge and off these threads for good!

  35. Robert in S. Kensington 20 Jul 2012, 12:25am

    I’ve just notified PN that Aiden et al need to be blocked permanently. It’s not very difficult to do. I urge all of you to ask PN to do it. These closeted self-loathers have no place here and are incapable of rational debate.

  36. Note to editor PARAGRAPH 8 is printed twice.

  37. Part of the reason the SG seem keen to go down the route of extra protection in law for celebrants etc is due to a (deliberate?) misinterpretation of law by some churches. It is due to this misinterpretation (that many think is a mere delaying tactic by some religious people) that this unnecessary action appears to be sought by SG.

    Some churches claim that European law may force religious organisations to recognise same-sex marriage if the state does so. But this is flawed. It relies upon a concatenation of treaty provisions, including Article 9 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR), which provides for a right to ‘marry and … found a family’, and Articles 12 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), which protect the right to marry and found a family and also prohibit discrimination. But the church de-emphasises the impact of Article 9 of the ECHR, which protects religious freedom. The CoE submission is one example

    1. of mistruth by religious organisation in this regard. The church’s submission to the Westminster consultation (which can be correlated to a position in Scotland) is based upon a single precedent, Schalk v. Austria (App. No. 30141/04), which held that Austria did not have an obligation to offer same-sex civil marriage, even though the benefits afforded under its registered partnership law differed from those offered to married couples.

      One prominent legal commentator has argued that the case against the church, to force it to perform same-sex religious marriage, is ‘reasonable’; another has claimed that the church’s argument is hysterical. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), meanwhile, found it sufficiently complex that it considered Schalk on its merits. However, even though the ECHR found that the couple in the case was entitled to protection of their ‘family life’ under applicable law, it refused to force the state to offer same-sex civil marriage. It based its decision on

    2. the fact that ‘marriage has deep-rooted social and cultural connotations which may differ largely from one society to another’ and that differential treatment of the applicants’ rights fell within the ‘margin of appreciation’ afforded to member states.

      The best analogy for the differential treatment of same-sex couples by offering them civil partnership as opposed to civil marriage is in the systematic prejudice suffered by African-Americans in the United States. In Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Jeter (who was black) married Richard Loving (who was white) in Washington D.C., where their marriage was not illegal. But when they returned to their home in Virginia, they were prosecuted under that state’s anti-miscegenation law. The trial court sentenced them to one year in jail, which would be suspended provided that they left the state and did not return for twenty-five years. The judge said,

      Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on

    3. separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

      The United States Supreme Court held,

      Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival. … To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

      Long before this 1967 decision, the court had decided Brown v. Board of Education, where the Supreme Court held,

      Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually

    4. interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.

      It went on to hold that in the field of public education, separate but equal had no place. Similarly, in Britain, same-sex couples, who are treated differently, are disadvantaged because separate treatment denotes inferior treatment. This differential treatment can, even if it does not always, retard the development of their relationships and deprive them of marriage-related benefits.

      Moreover, as Professor Leslie Green shown in a recent programme at the British Academy (Gay Marriage: Prospects and Realities, 29 May 2012), marriage offers a number of advantages not offered by same-sex civil partnerships, including

    5. portability of status, a broader understanding of the couple’s status, as well as the potential for religious recognition, depending upon the religious group involved.

      Imaginary religious arguments, like those used by the sentencing judge in Loving, should not be used to bar faithful couples, of whatever race or gender, from the same civil institution of marriage that the majority enjoy. Even if marriage were no different from civil partnership (and it is), separate would not be equal.

  38. Whilst about England – this piece by Nick Cohen can be correlated to Scotland too:

    “The church’s complaint that civil gay marriage may, despite the government’s assurances to the contrary, lead to the European Court of Human Rights forcing it to marry homosexuals at some unspecified point struck me as fanciful and neurotic. But when church sources tried to scare the government into submission by raising the prospect of disestablishment, they spoke truer than they knew. England accepts the emancipation of women. England is on it way to accepting the emancipation of homosexuals. The Church of England cannot stand against the settled will of England and expect to remain the national church.

    1. the European Court of Human Rights has recently said that the right to marry will not be interpreted to mean same sex couples until more signatories back same sex marriage in the full sense. There is only approximately a quarter of signatory member states that have full marriage rights at the moment and until that point of time they will not insist that the convention means that.

      1. However article 9 gives sufficient protection to those religous organisations who wish to exercise their religious freedom not to marry any couple they feel their religious conscience can not support.

  39. Here’s an interesting article that’s just been published on The Herald Scotland website – just try to ignore the slightly offensive tone by the writer, Iain MacWhirter.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/vote-hungry-snp-cant-afford-to-lose-gay-marriage-debate.18188294

    1. Interesting article. Don’t agree with most of it – but his argument re Canada, which appears to try and suggest that their experience is that church leaders could be prosecuted for failure to carry out marriages of same sex couples, actually proves the opposite – that clergy or celebrants will not, but state employees such as registrars may be – and that is appropriate.

      My favourite comment is that after the article:
      “The Cardinal calls for a referendum and a rational debate on gay marriage but how is that to be done with people who claim it is not debatable because they know what God thinks? Marriage is not a creation of the church but a natural institution of great antiquity and diversity which has merely been overlaid in this country with a Christian veneer. It lies therefore fully within the competence of the government to amend it to suit new insights into the way people of whatever gender and gender-mix relate to each other. Marriage was once all about male rights and

      1. power but it was changed and is now about equality. To its eternal shame that change was not made or even demanded by the church but was introduced by parliament and the will of the people.

        1. I felt the article was mostly accurate. As I say, I didn’t like MacWhirte’s tone, which I felt was a bit offensive and certainly not a gay point of view – in fact, it’s as though he was writing for a non-gay audience without thinking gay people may read it too.

          But I think the stuff he said about what the SNP will be taking into account when deciding whether to legislate and the splits within the party is accurate – as his belief that Salmond would postepone this until after 2014 if he can find a way to do so.

          Most interestingly, is his comparing it to Section 28 (Clause 2a). When that was repealed, the parties in government didn’t suffer as a result. It’s clear the SNP wouldn’t either if they legislate for equal marriage.

      2. I never relised that that the SNP were split into almost ideological factions until i read this article.

        1. Most political parties do have factions within them – the SNP is no different. And it’s not just over equal marriage. The most obvious factions in the SNP are about independence with the moderates (or gradualists) vs. the fundamentalists (or independence now) side.

          1. Sounds a bit like the way the French Socialists are. They have the Royalist faction after ex presidental candidate Segolene Royal, Hollandists after President Francois Hollande and even Aubryists after primary contender and former employment minister Martine Aubry and many others !!!

  40. Oh do get on with it, for heavens sake!

    The govt in Eng/Wales and in Scotland are stuffed full of lawyers , barristers, QCs etc and the debate on marriage equality in Scot and around the world has been going on for yrs.

    This surely can’t be the first time they though about this, the religious opt outs has been bandyied around for yongs. What do they pay their advisers for if not to come up with a legal solution well in advance!!!!!!

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