Current Affairs

Orkney Council denies homophobia accusations

Tony Grew January 8, 2007
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The remote Scottish island of Sanday is at the centre of a row, after a leading British composer was refused permission for a civil partnership ceremony.

Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, who is Master of the Queen’s Music, has lived on the small island, the third largest of the Orkney Islands, for nine years.

He had planned a ceremony with his partner, Colin Parkinson, next month.

However, officials at Orkney Islands Council have told Sir Peter that the registrar on Sanday is not authorised to perform the ceremony.

The council has told the 72-year-old composer that he must travel to the main island of Orkney for a civil partnership ceremony.

72-year-old Sir Peter is regarded as one of Britain’s foremost living composers. He has lived on the islands since 1971, and founded a internationally-renowned St Magnus arts festival on the main island of Okney in 1977.

Sir Peter has condemned the decision as discriminatory, and blames conservative religious on the islands for attempting to ruin his big day. He told The Independent, “Everybody can get married where they live except me, it seems.

“Ever since the law on civil partnerships was brought in, we thought that finally there was an opportunity to get married and to have a little celebration.

“Fundamental religious people, who delve into the Bible to justify their hatreds, still hold great sway. That kind of malignant influence is wrong. Most of the people here are fine and open, those who disapprove are in a minority.”

Orkney Islands Council responded to accusations of homphobia in a statement to

“In common with all the other home based registrars in the Orkney Island Council registration district, the Sanday registrar is not authorised to carry out civil partnership ceremonies.

“OIC has taken the decision, in line with guidance from the Registrar General, that the only registrar authorised to carry out Civil Partnership ceremonies is at Kirkwall Registration Office.

“OIC will be discussing this situation with all those concerned to find an acceptable solution within council procedure.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for a gay boycott of the islands, which are heavily reliant on tourism income.

Calum Irving, director of Stonewall Scotland, said, “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something homophobic about this. Orkney should operate in the spirit and letter of the law and find a registrar who is able to undertake this service on Sanday.”

Sir Peter was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 2004. The post, similar to that of Poet Laureate, was created in 1626.

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