Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, who earlier in the year labeled the Scottish Government’s plans for gay marriage a, ‘grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right’, has called for a vote due to the increase in public interest in the issue.
Cardinal O’Brien, who is the most senior Roman Catholic in Britain, said the recent marriage consultation received three times more responses than the Government’s consultation on the Scottish independence referendum. He said, ‘Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial that we have one on marriage…It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue.’
Having recently unveiled plans to raise £100,000 through church collections in support against same-sex marriage, led by the Scotland for Marriage campaign, Cardinal O’Brien spoke to the Sunday Times saying, ‘We will use this opportunity to remind Catholics of the importance of marriage as a union of a man and a woman and to urge them to be generous in contributing to a special collection which will be used to support initiatives in defence of marriage’.
Currently in Scotland, a civil partnership is the only type of union available to a same-sex couple. As much as this offers the same legal connotations as marriage, they are still viewed as being very different.
Last week, gay rights campaigners held a mock wedding service outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh to show their support in the battle for same-sex marriage to be fully legalised in the UK. They also delivered a 10,000-signature petition urging the Government to change the law on equal marriage as soon as possible.
After announcing a call for a referendum, many LGBT organisations spoke out, with Tom French, policy co-ordinator of charity The Equality Network suggesting that, ‘A referendum would be un-Scottish, unfair and a colossal waste of taxpayer’s money.’
Scottish ministers were set to unveil legislation this week regarding same-sex marriage, but now appear to be undertaking further discussions. Although they are in favour of same-sex marriage, a Scottish Government spokeswoman revealed; ‘The cabinet have had a first discussion on the next steps following the consultation on same-sex marriage and the registration of civil partnerships and have asked for some further detail…We fully expect to be in a position to publish the way ahead this month.’
It remains to be seen whether Cardinal O’Brien’s influence will force a referendum on the proposals, or not. The debate on marriage equality rages on.