Campaigners who want to change the definition of marriage in Scotland are “running scared” of a referendum.
Tom French of the Equality Network has rejected calls for a national vote on gay marriage, saying it would be a waste of money.
But his rejection of a referendum has led to accusations that he is afraid of what the public really thinks about gay marriage.
A Scotland for Marriage spokesman said: “The Equality Network is running scared of a referendum because they know they could lose the argument.
“Which just shows they couldn’t care less about ordinary people. They want to force their view of marriage on everyone else, whether people like it or not.
“If they believe their own hype, if they believe their own polls, they should have the guts to put it to a vote.
“Their rejection of a referendum shows that, for all their talk, they know most people don’t agree with them.
The spokesman added: “By far, the biggest test of public opinion has been the three-month consultation which attracted a record-breaking 77,000 responses – a clear majority of which are strongly opposed to redefining marriage.
“If the Scottish Government ignores the people on this issue, the people will punish them at the ballot box. You can’t alienate that many people without it coming back to bite you.
“Redefining marriage will have massive knock-on affect in Scotland. Schools will be pressurised to teach gay marriage to kids.
“People who hold to a traditional view of marriage will be penalised by equality bureaucrats, particularly in the public sector.
“Legal experts say the Scottish Government doesn’t have the power to protect churches from being sued over their support for traditional marriage.
“Clearly, the plans to redefine marriage have proved to be far more controversial, far more unpopular, and far more complicated than the Scottish Government ever imagined. It’s time these plans were dumped.”
Tom French of the Equality Network said: “If there was a nationwide referendum, conducted fairly, we are sure that Scots would vote for equality for same-sex couples. But that is not the way Scottish democracy works.
“Our MSPs were elected on clear manifesto commitments to consider the evidence, and decide, and we have confidence in them to do that. A referendum would be un-Scottish, unfair and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.”
He added: “We urge the Scottish Government to stand firm, stick by its principles and make the right decision.
“With cross-party support in Parliament, and majority support amongst the public, it is now time for the Scottish Government to back equality and bring forward equal marriage legislation without delay.
“It is the right thing to do, and now is the right time to do it.”