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Scotland: Parliament begins hearing arguments for and against gay marriage

Supporters call for opt-in system, opponents fear change in 'essence' of marriage

Scottish Parliament hears arguments for and against gay marriage Credit:

Scottish gay rights leaders told Scottish Parliament Sept 5 that an opt-in system for churches would strike a fair balance between gay rights and religious liberty, while religious leaders countered that legislators should not change the “essence” of marriage, the BBC reports.

Scotland is considering the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill, an analogue to the Marriage Act, which legalized gay marriage in England and Wales in July. The Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament heard arguments for and against the bill today.

Representatives of the Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland spoke in favour of the bill, while representatives of the Evangelical Alliance Scotland and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Scotland spoke against.

Colin MacFarlane, of Stonewall Scotland, argued for the opt-in model for churches. "I don't think it is for any of us here on this panel to tell a religious organization what they should do,” he said. “That is for the religious organization, through discussion, through prayer, to come to that conclusion themselves.”

John Deighan, of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Scotland, however, likens gay marriage to false advertising. "We can't have laws saying people can sell bracelets and call them watches if they don't tell the time,” he said.

Deighan added: “We do not change the whole of society because people might feel upset that their relationship is not being given a particular badge by the state. It is not about badges.”

Dr Salah Beltagui, of the Muslim Council of Scotland, argued that it’s dangerous for society “if we keep changing the list to exclude relationships that we currently recognize as making it not possible for people to marry.

“As people have said, that could lead to incest and other dangerous relations,” Beltagui says.

If the bill passes, gay Scots could start to marry by 2015.