A homosexual couple registered a civil partnership earlier this week on the Isle of Lewis.
Andrew Robertson, a children’s television presenter, and marketing manager Craig Atkins became the first gay couple to seal a civil partnership on the strongly Christian island.
The islanders’ traditions had taken another blow the previous day, as the first Sunday ferry service set sail. A number of Christians gathered to stage what was described as a “dignified” protest.
When civil partnerships were introduced, the Western Isles Council said that since their registrars did not want to carry out ceremonies, only legal registrations would be available.
It is thought that Mr Robertson and Mr Atkins’ partnership was marked only by the signing of papers, and according to reports the council will “uphold its right of discretion to ban ceremonies for same-sex couples”.
However, this week Tim Hopkins of Scotland’s Equality Network was quick to argue that the controversial Sexual Orientation Regulations would force the council to provide civil partnership ceremonies.
“Civil marriage and civil partnership law are effectively identical”, Mr Hopkins wrote in a letter to The Herald.
But a spokesman for the Free Church of Scotland said: “The council should not be forcing staff to conduct ceremonies like these.”
Observers have hailed the civil partnership and the ferry crossing as signs of ‘modernisation’ on the islands.
But The Daily Telegraph’s Melanie McDonagh said the new Sunday crossings “ride roughshod over the religious sensibilities of one miniscule part of the British Isles that still takes its Christianity seriously”.
The argument that refusing the ferry service for religious reasons could breach equality laws was “complete hokum”, wrote the columnist.
She continued: “The justification of the move is drearily familiar: nobody’s forcing these people to take the ferry; it’s individual choice, isn’t it?
“Well no, actually. What you do individually has a communal impact.
“Few of us have not been affected by the transformation of Sunday into the second-busiest shopping day.”