On a day when the news was full of Strikers protesting outside Holyrood about the British Governments Pensions grab on Public Sector workers, there was almost unseen and unreported other group protesting in the same place.
This group was not protesting against the British Government, this group is one unhappy bunch with the Scottish Government.
There were 200 hundred of them going under the collective name of “Scotland for Marriage”. Some might dispute that name, as they seem to most certainly exclude the very idea of same sex marriage. Perhaps they should be rightly called “Scotland for Marriage on our own terms”
As a former church minister in my previous life,I must say this has been an issue which I have been struggling to get my head round,but not for the reasons one might suspect.My struggles with this issue are of a different kind altogether from the entrenched views of those most closely connected to it.However I will come back to that later. Firstly lets find out a bit about this group which were protesting amongst the throngs outside Holyrood yesterday. Who are they,and what were they saying?
Former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson, spoke at the event welcoming the campaign. So too did Cardinal O’Brien, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh.Ann Allen, former Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Board of Social Responsibility, also spoke.
Scotland for Marriage is backed by The Christian Institute and other religious and non-religious groups.
Adverts to publicise the group’s launch were published in three national newspapers – the Daily Record, The Herald and The Scotsman.
A website for the group, scotlandformarriage.org, features an online petition calling for a referendum on the issue and pointing to the far-reaching implications of redefining marriage.
Gordon Wilson said: “If the Scottish Government wants the Scottish people to vote for independence in a referendum, why is it going out of its way to alienate so many Scots in the Christian and Muslim communities?
“As a veteran, it is obvious to me the Government is in a political hole. My advice is simple. Forget about the ‘done deal’ with the Tory/Liberal coalition in London. They are not on your side. Scotland is not London. As you will find, Scotland is for marriage!”
Ok Gordon, that’s the Free Church accounted for, no big surprise there. The Free Church still has problems with music in worship and the use of hymns,never mind same sex marriage.The last I heard was that the Scottish Government were running a consultation,which is right and proper, and that consultation includes religious groups. Can it be that the objection is that the issue is being discussed at all? If so, then the denial of discussion and consultation would be an affront to the civil liberties of the vast numbers of people who have no religion in this country nowadays,and surely that would not be right?
And am I right in saying that your words are an attempted form of blackmail? You as a former SNP leader should know better. Why suggest that if the SNP Scottish Government goes ahead with this consultation that those who disagree on this single issue will withhold their vote from the Scottish Independence referendum? In case you hadn’t realised , there are many within all of the Unionist parties who support same sex marriage, so why suggest this is purely a Nationalist issue?
Cardinal O’Brien said: “As an institution, marriage long pre-dates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by government and should not be changed by them.
“Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society they should act to protect and uphold it not attack or dismantle it.
Much as Gordon Wilsons Free Church views did not surprise me, neither does the Cardinals Roman Catholic views. They are pretty much as I would have expected.
Marriage does indeed pre-date any state or government, but might I respectfully add that the institution of marriage also predates Catholicism, Christianity and Islam, and that never stopped any of them fiddling with it. From what I can see the Government is neither attacking marriage,nor dismantling it, unless of course they decide to make marriage illegal,and I can’t see that happening any time soon.
Bashir Maan, the former Glasgow councillor and Muslim community leader, who attended the rally said: “I’m concerned about this, and so is the Muslim community, because I think it could be the beginning of the destruction of society as we know it.”
“If there’s no family, what about society? These politicians should look forward and have some foresight – what will become of the family without the union of a man and woman?
Talk about overkill, Bashir. ‘The beginning of the destruction of society as we know it’? Society always has, and always will be in a state of flux. We are no more in the same society with the same opinions that we had 40 years ago when I was a boy, this issue will not create a societal nuclear bomb,any more than moral issues such as abortion,cloning or voluntary euthanasia have caused.
And what will become of the family without the union of a man and a woman? You surely are not suggesting that we will All become homosexual? That’s just barking! Genetically, very few in society are predisposed to being Gay, are we suddenly to be genetically altered by the advent of same sex marriage? Nonsense.
Ann Allen, former Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Board of Social Responsibility, said: “I’m confused as to why with so many pressing issues confronting us today in Scotland, our government has chosen to prioritise time, effort, and money on this particular issue.
“Canada legalised same sex marriage in 2005 and today faces challenges to have polygamy legalised. Is this what we want for a modern Scotland: a continual changing of moral and legal goalposts?
Well Ann, I have to say that if we left it to the Church of Scotland to discuss,we would still be discussing the issue in the next millennium! How many years have you been wrestling back and forth over whether or not the church will allow homosexual ministers? At the last count and at least two moratoriums on allowing discussion, I count somewhere around ten years, and its yet again a taboo subject today. And its not so long ago that the Church even allowed women ministers.You were lucky not to be born a generation earlier than you were. As such I would have thought you more likely than less, to be prepared to open up discussion on a matter which a significant minority of society have a personal stake in.
Why would the Government not be prepared to listen to representation from any group of people in society, and why do you feel that you have the moral high ground? Are you really saying by your statement that homosexuals are immoral? If you are,as you appear to be implying,then why not just come right out and say so plainly? Or would that not be politically correct enough for you?
Ann goes on to say, “As a former teacher I am concerned that children are going to be taught that same sex partnerships and traditional marriage are the same, which they are not.
Are they not? Can you really define the difference, because I struggle to see it. What would you say Ann are the defining differences? You are correct,but the differences are so minimal as to be in my opinion insignificant. Lets examine them shall we?
A civil partnership is a legal marriage between couples that are gay or lesbian. Once a civil partnership occurs between these couples, they are entitled to receive similar treatment and benefits as that of any married couple.
On December 5, 2005, The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into effect in the UK, allowing couples of the same sex to have legal recognition of their relationship. Any couples who enter into a civil partnership obtain the new legal status of “Civil Partners”, instead of the traditional husband and wife status.
The Civil Partnership Act states that it will not allow any form of religious activity to occur during the process of registering the union. The act does not include a ceremony, and any couple that wishes to have a ceremony will need to contact the registration authority, where the union is to be entered, to find out whether a ceremony is possible.
During the registration. couples will be allowed to speak vows prior to signing the registration. Couples are also required to bring a minimum of two people, who will serve as witnesses and are able to sign the registration documents.
A same sex couple cannot enter into a civil partnership just anywhere. There are certain offices where the registration can take place; some examples being hotels, restaurants, and prestigious buildings. To enter the registration of a civil partnership there are a few steps to be taken:
Visit any office where registration may occur, and give notice of your intention to form a civil partnership.
Wait for fifteen days, the official notice period
Sign the registration, the two witnesses present must also to sign the registration
In comparison with a civil marriage, civil partnerships will have the following equal rights, and responsibilities:
Benefits that are income-related will be considered in regards to joint treatment
Tax, including inheritance tax
Benefits from state pensions will also become a joint treatment
The duty of providing maintenance to your partner and any children of either party
Each party of the union will become a parental figure and thus become responsible for any children either person may have
Inheritance in regards to an agreement of tenancy
Domestic violence protection
Access to compensation of fatal accidents
Succeed to rights of tenancy
The registration of civil partnership will have merit for the purposes of immigration
Hospital visiting rights as next of kin
Like traditional marriage, those that are involved in a civil partnership are exempt from being required to testify in court against one another
Each partner has the responsibility to be assessed for child support, in the same manner as that of civil marriages
Treatment comparable to that of a civil marriage in regards to life assurance
Benefits that arise from Pension and Employment
Although a civil partnership is essentially viewed as a “gay marriage”, between same sex partners, the reason it is not called a “gay marriage”, is that there are a few differences between a partnership and a marriage on a technical level.
A civil partnership becomes legal when the registration certificate is signed by both partners. This does not mean that it must be signed during a ceremony that is public or during any specific event. This allows the partner to enter into the partnership on a private basis. There need be no words exchanged. During a civil marriage, typically words are exchanged and then the register is signed.
A vast difference between a civil partnership and a civil marriage is that a civil marriage almost always contains religious aspects during the marriage. The word marriage is a religious word in itself. Additionally, a clergy can perform civil marriages, whereas only specified registrars can perform a civil partnership.
As far as I can see, the whole ruckus boils down to one word, ‘Marriage’, because other than no religious passages being allowed to be used in a civil partnership ceremony, the word marriage is not allowed either. Yet it is a marriage in everything but the word. Civil partnerships have exactly the same legal stature,rights and responsibilities as marriage.It is at this point that I struggle with the whole issue. Both Homosexual and Religious groups are at odds over a word!
Why should it really matter? I fail to see.
There are both civil and religious marriages conducted every year.
The religious community do not get up in arms over a secular civil marriage being called a marriage,when it is clearly not religious.So why the big deal in allowing same sex partnerships to use the word if that’s what they want to do? My concern If I were a Church, would be that marriages are fast becoming a thing of the past, with many young people choosing to live together rather than get married. The numbers getting married are dropping year by year. So where then for the religious ideal?
If it passes into law that a same sex couple may use the term marriage in their ceremony, no religious institution will be asked to go against their beliefs and conduct the ceremony, they may still refuse if they wish. They have always had that right to refuse marrying anyone, so nothing will have changed.
Those that are of the same sex will just legally use a word which is naturally applied by them anyway. They are already seen as married in the eyes of broad society when they enter a partnership.
I should further point out on the actual subject matter, that currently it is not legal for any clergy of any denomination to perform a religious same sex marriage. Not because all denominations forbid it,as some denominations allow for an element of Religious Conscience by their clergy, but rather that the state will not legally allow it.
Some clergy are prepared to offer a Blessing, but that is all they can legally do. And so I would imagine that those who would be happy to conduct such as Blessing would also be prepared to conduct a marriage. That disqualification of religious wording and limitation to Civil places of conducting marriage, in itself is actually discriminatory on the part of the state as the law stands.
Now can we please get back to fighting over Life of Brian, at least that was a bit more fun!