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Scottish government rejects referendum

20 July 2012

The First Minister, Alex Salmond, discusses same-sex marriage proposals with the Scottish cabinet

The First Minister, Alex Salmond, discusses same-sex marriage proposals with the Scottish cabinet

THE Scottish government has rejected calls to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage, describing it as "an issue of conscience, not constitution".

The cabinet met on Tuesday to discuss the response to its consultation on legalising same-sex marriage. No decision was reached, and a sub-committee has been appointed to "further examine some particular issues of detail", a spokesperson said. A "clear decision on the way forward" will be published before the end of the month.

On the launch of the consultation in September last year, the Scottish government said that it "tends towards the view" that same-sex marriage should be introduced, but that faith groups should not be obliged to solemnise it.

The Scotland for Marriage campaign group has urged the Scottish government to carry out a referendum on whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalised.

The campaign is supported by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland. The president of the Conference, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has described same-sex marriage as "a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right" ( News, 9 March).

He said on Monday that, as the consultation had received three times more responses than the consultation on an independence referendum, all those with a view on the subject should "place their trust in the Scottish people, and let Scotland decide".

Both the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church said that they could not agree to plans to legalise same-sex marriage.

A report this week from the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, What's in a name: Is there a case for equal marriage?, sets out the "conservative case for equal marriage". The benefits of marriage ought to be extended to gay couples, the report argues. It rebuts the suggestion in the Church of England's official response to the Government's consultation on same-sex marriage ( News, 15 June) that the legislation would "dilute" marriage.

The report recognises concern about Churches' being forced to solemnise same-sex marriages as "an important and principled objection", and advises the Government to introduce "explicit safeguards" into the legislation. "The Synod, not the European Court of Human Rights, should decide the Church of England's position on this," the report says.


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