Churches to Govt: Protect civil liberties in Scots marriage Bill

Over 50 ministers and church officials have urged the Scottish Government to protect the civil liberties of those who believe in traditional marriage, ahead of the final vote on the same-sex marriage Bill today.

Last week, John Mason MSP tabled a series of amendments, including changes which ensure public sector employees do not suffer “detriment” for believing marriage is between a man and a woman.

He said his changes are “intended to strengthen the protections for those who disagree with same-sex marriage”.

Disciplined

Ministers and church officials warned in a letter to the Government that people working in the public sector could be disciplined over their traditional marriage views if the Bill is passed.

They urged the Government to “explicitly state on the face of the Bill” that this belief is “worthy of respect”.

The letter said: “We would also welcome a specific amendment to the Equality Act clarifying that compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) means ensuring no person suffers any detriment because they express their belief in marriage as currently defined.”

Warned

The group also said that they were “greatly concerned” about public bodies refusing to work with churches, which publicly disagree with same-sex marriage.

The group argued for “reasonable accommodation” to ensure churches and religious charities that are opposed to gay marriage can continue to provide services with public bodies, and make use of their facilities.

They also asked the Government to amend charity law so that holding a traditional view of marriage cannot be cited as a “disbenefit” when it comes to determining an organisation’s charitable status.

Discrimination

The campaign group Scotland for Marriage handed over a petition of 54,000 signatures to the Government, but removed the addresses of the signatories over fears of discrimination.

A spokesman said the decision to redact the details was “an absolute necessity to protect the rights and freedoms of ordinary men and women with traditional views on marriage which are under threat”.

“We really are facing the prospect of people being discriminated against in their own homes, at work and at schools if this Bill progresses in its present form”, he added.

Vote

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill reaches its final stage in Holyrood today.

In November, the general principle of the legislation was passed at stage one by 98 votes to 15.

Related Resources