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Scottish Health Secretary: Registrars will not be forced to marry gay couples

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  1. “Public sector registrars are there to carry out a public duty and are employed to do so,” he said.”

    Unless they don’t like that particular member of the public apparently

  2. Why?

    What if they refuse to marry black people?

    What if they refuse to marry disabled people?

    What then? I think we know…!

    1. Cardinal Fang 3 Oct 2013, 3:29pm

      Or, more realistically, divorced people.

  3. Jock S. Trap 3 Oct 2013, 3:16pm

    And will Gay people get a tax cut to compensate?

    That’s right I doubt it, even though we’ve paid for them all these years.

  4. That There Other David 3 Oct 2013, 3:22pm

    So now according to Scottish law LGBT discrimination is a matter of individual conscience. The SNP government just blinked and opened the floodgates. Well done, idiots. Might as well rip up the Equalities Act right now.

  5. Ridiculous! You shouldn’t pander to prejudice or ignorance.

    I’m sure there are still people who disagree with interracial marriages, but society wouldn’t validate their ideas by allowing them to opt out of performing such marriages.

    It’s the start of something rather nasty. Registrars could start picking and choosing who they deign to marry – no atheists, no non-Christians, no divorcees.

    They should so their job and keep their prejudices out of the workplace.

    1. *do their job (phone+clumsy fingers=typos!)

    2. Just spoken to my MSP about this, insane, you do not get a job in a butchers shop if you are a vegetarian and then refuse to serve meat to customers, because of your beliefs. If you have a conscience objection to dealing with all your customers without discrimination, because they are gay or black or female or a different religion from you, then, frankly there is something seriously wrong with your conscience. Those working with the public are already not allowed to discriminate on those grounds, marrying two people of the same sex is no different, it would be discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. End of. Alex Neil needs to buck up.

  6. Godric Godricson 3 Oct 2013, 3:27pm

    No, No, No!

  7. CH Brighton 3 Oct 2013, 3:32pm

    This is nonsensical and Mr Neil will very soon find that giving in to the religious lobby will only encourage them to demand more and more. He should remember that the proposed law is for civil marriage and as such registrars will be performing a secular ceremony. It’s part of their job and they should do it. This allowance sets a dangerous precedent for civil servants not to carry out their public duties where they dislike particular individuals or groups.

  8. So I guess that means they won’t be registering the births of children of unmarried couples nor will they be registering the second marriages of divorcees or for couples who have had premarital sex.
    Is that right? or will it be just the those registrars with anti-gay prejudice that get an opt out?

  9. What if a Christian registrar refuses to marry a heterosexual couple when either or both of the bride and groom is divorced, or a Muslim or Jew?
    What if because of “Christian beliefs” a registrar refuses to marry ANYONE because they believe that all marriages need to be religious ceremonies performed in a church? What if a racist refuses to marry black people because of their racist beliefs? Pathetic.

    1. “What if because of “Christian beliefs” a registrar refuses to marry ANYONE because they believe that all marriages need to be religious ceremonies performed in a church? ”

      Well exactly, and this is where special opt-outs for registrars over religious conscience might take us.

  10. Beelzeebub 3 Oct 2013, 4:04pm

    I don’t think this would hold up under legal scrutiny.

    It would simply need a couple denied this service by some bigot registrar to get a savvy lawyer and court decision as to a councils right to demand council taxation for services legally denied them by the state.

    The ECHR will have a field day with this, assuming the Tories don’t pull us out of it.

  11. This is unnaceptable. The SNP are allowing public sector employees to refuse to provide service to gay people – the only group they’re singling out like this for legal discrimination.

    But given their own government minister responsible for this marriage bill, Roseanna Cunningham, was allowed to refuse to carry out her duties, we shouldn’t be surprised the SNP have taken this direction.

    And let’s not forget the SNP caved into catholic church demands over cervical vaccinations so that all school girls in Scotland, not just catholic ones, are submitted to catholic dogma instead of being given full information about their health.

    It seems the SNP is not comitted to full equality for LGBT people after all when they let bigots opt of equality laws.

    1. Missed out a word! I meant to say cervical cancer vaccinations, in the second last paragraph of my previous comment.

      1. Yes Bennie and they are still in denial over giving those same HPV vaccinations to all, boys included. Nowhere have I seen that vaccinating less than 50% of the population, provides “herd” immunity,
        against a virus, except in this instance, and of course males who are bi-sexual or gay do not partake in that immunity at all if only females are vaccinated, it would appear that this is not the only area of his brief that Alex Neil is not up to snuff on!, he would rather kick 1 in 12 of the population to winds of chance as whether they acquire an HPV induced cancer, and gay men are 15 times more likely to do so.
        He also does not seem to realise it is grossly discriminatory to have Trans people wait till 18 to change their birth certificate when they may have been living in their acquired gender already for 4-5 years or more, by the time they reach 16, and can get legally married at 16!, but not in the gender they are living, until they are 18. There is no justification for this.

  12. I highly doubt Mr Neil is signalling a proposed change in the law. He is simply telegraphing his own ignorance.

    He is correct that the Equality Act places equality duty on employers rather than employees. It’s up to local authorities to ensure that registrars provide equal service to all.

    Some local authorities certainly will understand this to mean that every registrar must be willing to conduct same-sex marriages. They will fire registrars who won’t, and the law is on their side. Ladele resolved this beyond any possible further discussion.

    Other councils will no doubt choose to give registrars discreet, informal opt-outs – at least until they get caught out doing so.

    If Mr Neil would like to provide the names of these “common sense” councils, I’m sure that CPed couples in these areas who find out their civil partnership services were passed about among staff like hot potatoes will be only to delighted to sue these councils.

    1. If you are correct, Atalanta, and this is just Alex Neil’s ignorance, then it doesn’t fill me with confidence that the minister who has been appointed to handle the same sex marriage bill (after the minister who does hold this responsibility, Roseanna Cunningham, refused to do it) doesn’t even seem capable of doing so.

      1. This is true, although it was kept very quiet when originally this brief was passed to Nicola Sturgeon and most people assumed it was being given a higher priority by being handled by the deputy Leader, instead of Roseanna Cunningham, when it was passed to Alex Neil the cat was well and truly out of the bag for all to see.
        Alex Neil has never filled me with confidence as far as LGBTI equality issues are concerned, (see my comments above), he just does not have that knowledge or instinctive belief in equality to know when he is not being equitable.

        1. I only know it was supposed to be Cunningham because the Daily Mail reported it! Marriage law of any kind is the responsibility of the Community Safety & Legal Affairs Minister.

          When the official report of the first consultation was published, it said the process had been handled by the Justice Directorate – the department which this minister works for.

          And the previous minister, Fergus Ewing, handled the issue of same sex marriage in the SNP’s first term in 2007-2011, when he repeated 6 times that the SNP government wouldn’t even consider it despite it being recommended by the Public Petitions Committee.

          So it’s clear that Cunningham should be responsible for it but her own homophobia was allowed to take precedence over her duties for which she is handsomely paid. The thing is, Salmond promised a consultation during the election campaign and still gave Cunningham this job following the election, knowing this situation would arise.

          1. Thanks for a bit more of the background on this.
            It certainly doesn’t fill me with confidence that Cunningham was given the job of Justice & Community Affairs by Alex Salmond if he already knew about her homophobic attitudes, this brief covers many aspects of gay peoples lives and demands no blind spots; as does Health and so many others, if not ALL.
            Would you give a racist or a misogynist a Cabinet post?

          2. Salmond shouldn’t haven given her a job in government in the firs place. He made her Environment minister in 2009, I think. This was over 2 years after her disgusting speech in the Scottish Parliament during the debate on the adoption and fostering bill where she said it “goes against 10,000 years of nature’s design.”

            So clearly being a homophobe is no bar to ministerial office in the SNP, and even worse it’s no bar to a specific position where the homophobe in question will have to deal with upcoming same sex marriage legislation. It seems the SNP’s answer to that is to let the homophobia trump gay equality and let the homophobe refuse to carry out her ministerial duties.

            Is it any wonder the SNP wish to extend this right to homophobic registrars? What’s next, the checkout assistant in the supermarket being allowed to refuse to serve me becuase I’ve got a copy of Attitude magazine in my trolley?

  13. Maybe I’m just being rather cynical, but I wonder if this is the SNP trying to wriggle out of equal marriage altogether.

    It’s no secret that they are funded by Souter, and that there commitment to gay equality has been patchy at best.

    They could be making this opt out for registrars a requirement of the equal marriage bill, knowing full well that Westminster will refuse to amend the reserved equality laws.

    That will allow the SNP to drop it altogether and blame “evil” Westminster into the bargain.

    I’m amazed that a supposedly social democratic SNP are less progressive on gay equality than the Tories. It makes me shudder to think what an independent Scotland under the SNP would be like for LGBT people.

    1. I agree the SNP have a spotty attitude (I’m being kind here) to standing up against religious interference in the equal rights of Scots to not be burdened by religious dogma in public affairs and legal equality, and in education; and even worse when these matters impact gay people. Frankly, there are a lot of religious bigots in the SNP who should have been given the shove a long time ago, but still they keep pandering to them. If only they had the unflinching attitude of the Green Party in Brighton, if only!
      If they want my vote they will have to buck up and decide to be unequivocal in support of Human Rights even if that negatively impacts religion, Just as the United Nations HR Committee says Human Rights transcend tradition and religious practice, if the two conflict, Human Rights wins.

      1. The only problem is that the SNP have shown time and time again that when human rights (gay equality) clash with religion, religion wins. The SNP have always sided with religion in such cases.

  14. And I’m sure the SNP’s official gay group, Out for Independence, won’t hesitate to publicly condemn this.

    They spoke out quickly enough the other week to defend Christina McKelvie MSP over her comments on Twitter.

    It would be shameful if they kept silent on this issue or even tried to defend it.

  15. Do I detect the hand of our old friend Brian Souter in all of this?

  16. What if every registrar in an area refuses, how can the authority ensure that there are no barriers.

    Why should this job role be able to pick and choose what they do when no other job role can do that.

    A badly thought out idea designed to pamper to bigots.

  17. They take public money to carry out a job. They should be required to carry out that job for everyone regardless of the persons beliefs.

    Any public servant who refuses to carry out their duty’s should be sacked immediately without warning.

    One would hope that in the future anyone taking on such a job understands that it is a condition of employment and if they have personal beliefs that conflict with them carrying out their duty’s. Then they will not get the job.

  18. “He described how some civil registrars disagree with civil partnerships, but local authorities have dealt with these incidents allowing “common sense” to prevail.”

    Is Alex Neil also saying that registrars in Scotland have been allowed to opt out of performing civil partnerships for years?

    I think this matter needs to looked into urgently because no public employee should be allowed to refuse to carry out their duties because they are homophobic bigots.

    UK equality law doesn’t allow this kind of opt out and even the Ladele case proved this. WTF is going on in Scotland that UK laws are being ignored with Scottish government approval, to pander to homophobes?

  19. I wish I got to pick and choose which parts of my job I will and will not perform — for full pay, of course.

  20. There’s a sniff of Bran Souter about this. What makes it worse is that Health Secretary Alex Neil is now telling us that registrars in Scotland have apparently been allowed to get away similar things for years – that is, they have been allowed to break the law. And the likes of me, who is a Scottish Resident, have been paying taxes for those who don’t do the job they are being paid to do. I wonder what kind other public servants in Scotland have been allowed to get away with over the years. How about “Don’t want to treat that patient, it’s against my religion.” If I thought that this was happening in a profession I’m involved in I would, and I will, come down like a ton of bricks on any authority turning a blind eye to it, or worse, colluding in it.

  21. Colin (london) 3 Oct 2013, 5:07pm

    Scotland this is a mistake..you are setting a terrible precedent and showing a lack of understanding as to what basic human rights are.

  22. Does this then mean that public health workers would have the same choices?

    I’m sorry sir, whilst you appear to be bleeding to death in our A&E, the Health Secretary has said I don’t have to treat you because I have an imaginary friend who says your bad because you have sex with men.

    1. *you’re

  23. I think this is being misinterpreted. He isn’t saying that the Scottish government is giving registrars a right to opt-out of same-sex marriages – he’s just saying that individual register offices will be able to allow registrars to opt-out if they want to, provided that this doesn’t make it any more difficult for same-sex couples to get married.

    This is the way things already work for civil partnerships throughout the UK. Lilian Ladele didn’t want to do civil partnerships, so Islington Council initially allowed her to swap shifts to get out of them. It was only when this started causing friction with other employees that they changed their minds.

    And yes, I’m sure it would be perfectly possible for a register office to do something similar if a registrar didn’t want to be involved in marriages of people of a given race or religion. The onus is on public bodies to make sure people are treated equally, not on their individual employees.

    1. But it does amount to employees opting out of performing their duties, and only ever because of homophobic reasons. Would you feel quite so comfortable with a registrar being allowed to change shifts every time a black couple wanted to get married? Why is it only ever homophobia which is tolerated in this way and not (quite rightly) racism or anti-semitism?

      1. It’s the individual register office that decides what their employees’ duties are and whether they are performing them adequately, though, isn’t it? I’m not comfortable with the idea of organisations moving staff around to pander to their discriminatory views, but I think it is pretty clear that they are allowed to do so under existing equality law, and I have a feeling that banning it would run into a lot of problems.

        1. But are they allowed to do so? Or are they doing so anyway, despite the equality legislation. Whatever way you try to spin it, you are making excuses for homophobes being allowed to shirk their responsibilities.

          1. Well said, BennieM.

          2. Thanks, Rufusred. I have no time for anyone making excuses for homophobia, particularly someone who is likely to be LGBT since they’re reading and leaving comments on Pink News.

      2. How does this work in the Highlands and Islands, where there my be only one registrar, I have only heard this anecdotally, but I understand a registrar had to be specially flown in from the mainland to perform a civil partnership on one of the Islands, because the local registrar refused! If true, this is despicable and would not be tolerated if against any other innate minority, I wonder if they got a “final warning”?

  24. So people who work in the private sector cannot discriminate, e.g. the Bulls, but people in the public sector in Scotland can. That is a strange anomaly.

    Also, how will it affect recruitment. Presumably, Ladelle can apply for a registrar’s job in Scotland now!

    What a load of nonsense.

    1. Let her try, I’ll be on the demo!

  25. Getting quite fed up of people hiding behind “Christian beliefs” and having those “beliefs” respected

  26. Michael 2912 3 Oct 2013, 6:21pm

    This just makes me speechless with rage. Since when was it “common sense” to accommodate harmful prejudice? Religious arguments were raised against allowing marriage between white and black people. Would they be countenanced now? Be ever vigilant brothers and sisters. We can never let our guard down. Look out for each other.

    1. Whenever it comes to direct choice between religious bigotry or gay equality, the SNP have always sided with religious bigotry.

      It was the same with cervical cancer vaccinations (which I’ve mentioned in another comment) and also catholic adoption agencies. The SNP government wanted them to be exempt from equality legislation but Westminster refused. So the SNP helped St. Margaret’s in Glasgow to find a loophole in the legislation so they could refuse gay people. When the Scottish charity regulator said a few months ago that St. Margaret’s was breaking the law, Mike Russell the SNP Education secretary gave St. Margaret’s his full support.

  27. Robert in S. Kensington 3 Oct 2013, 6:29pm

    What if there were gay registrars, maybe there are, who refused to marry a homophobic straight couple? Would the same accommodation be allowed? I think not.

  28. Is this a vision of Things To Come in the great, new independent Scotland the Brave, then? Cop-outs for bigots? What if a registrar refuses to marry a mixed race couple, then?

    1. There are so many unanswered questions, Embedded Bill of Rights in a written constitution, is only one of them. How will Supreme Court of Scotland judges be fairly appointed/selected ?
      Will local authorities power and responsibilities be defined and hard to mess about with, like their revenue raising powers, independence and autonomy from the Scottish Government?
      I certainly will not be voting for the “new improved Tory Party” at the next election, who have promised to repeal the Human Rights Act, Accede from the EHCR and the CoE Treaties, Remove the Public Sector Equality Duty and otherwise mess about with the Equality Act. Give education carte blanche to indoctrinate religion into young people’s minds and even less relationship and sex education than now (which is already inadequate and abysmal) Never.
      The SNP have a long way to go to convince me at this point, but there is nothing to say a yes vote for Scots independence, that voters will then give the SNP a majority

      1. You are right that Scottish independence is not a forgone conclusion – in fact, at present more people oppose it, according to most polls.

        You are also correct in that if we do vote for independence, there is no guarantee that the SNP will be voted into government. In fact, one school of thought is that independence could be the end of the SNP as voters will no longer see a need to vote for them. They could become a fringe party with just a handful of MSPs in an independent Scotland.

        But all of this is just conjecture, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens with regard to Scotland voting for independence or not, and what will become of the SNP afterwards.

  29. So far excuses I’ve seen are that Alex Neil was misunderstood – so why have the usually efficient SNP parliamentary press team not put out a release clarifying that the BBC got it wrong. Excuse 2 is that what registrars do is a matter for Councils not the Government, but no Scottish Council has been cited as having ever backed opt outs. Excuse 3 seems to be that this is a minor matter and the referendum takes precedence so be quiet and it will all get sorted after we vote for Independence – and strangely the SNP’s LGBT wing – Out for Independence – has fallen completely silent on this one. So the challenge is for the Scottish Government to clarify that, just like the Commons, it will not back registrars being given an opt out, or to spell out why it thinks this should exist.

    1. People who are members or supporters of any political party will often defend the indefensible rather than criticise their party. SNP supporters tend to extremely loyal to Salmond and the party.

      I’ve had SNP party members, officials, MSPs and Councillors all defend homophobia within the SNP – such as Souter’s millions and Roseanna Cunningham. Even Out for Independence went to great lengths to excuse Souter, Cunningham, St. Margaret’s rather than challenge it and try to change it.

      It’s quite shameful for gay people to defend homophobia just to remain loyal to their chosen party.

      1. It is shameful indeed, especially poignant when it is realised the real harm and damage inflicted on gay and transgender people in Scotland, not only in the past but still continuing because of this unreasoning bigotry and ignorance exhibited by a supposedly egalitarian Party, it is a minority perhaps to be sure, but it is not being challenged up front and refuted which allows it to fester and corrupt the body politic and will be the SNP’s undoing in an increasingly agnostic and not religious Scotland.

  30. But I’m sure these holy people will still marry adulterous divorcees and those who have been living in “sin”?

    Just feeble pandering to superstition, the usual religious camouflage for the swivel eyed to express their peevish hate.

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