Gay marriage: liberty worries go well beyond clergy

The far-reaching impact of the Scottish Government’s plan to redefine marriage has been laid bare by a leading human rights lawyer.

Teachers, chaplains, Christians who want to foster, and church groups could all be penalised, according to a legal opinion by Aidan O’Neill QC.

The SNP-led Government claims that amending the Equality Act will protect those who believe in traditional marriage.


But Aidan O’Neill QC makes clear this won’t be enough. Critics say the only way to be safe is to ditch the “divisive” plans.

According to the advice teachers who refuse to use storybooks about same-sex marriage because it conflicts with their religious beliefs could be dismissed.

NHS chaplains who preach about traditional marriage in church could be disciplined under equality policies – even if they were off duty at the time.


Would-be Christian foster carers who express opposition to same-sex marriage could be turned away by social workers.

And church groups could be prevented from using community centres if their church refuses to conduct same-sex weddings.

A spokesman for Scotland for Marriage, a group seeking to preserve traditional marriage, said: “The impact of the gay marriage laws go well beyond churches, mosques, priests and imams.


“And it will take more than a few amendments to the UK Equality Act to sort out the mess.

“If you work in the public sector, your employer could discipline you for speaking in support of traditional marriage.

“That means people like teachers, NHS chaplains, and others will be in the firing line.

“If you want to foster children, you could be refused because of your ‘intolerant’ and ‘discriminatory’ support for traditional marriage.

“If you are a parent who objects to gay marriage, you have little hope of stopping your children learning about it at school.

“If you are a church that refuses to conduct gay weddings, a council could bar you from hiring any council-controlled facilities.

“The only way to avoid this legal chaos is drop these plans altogether. Redefining marriage is deeply unpopular and highly divisive.”


A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We are entirely confident of protecting freedom of speech and freedom of religion within our same-sex marriage proposals.

“We have stated that in taking forward this legislation we will discuss the range of concerns with stakeholders and what additional protections should be included.”


Earlier this week the SNP-led Government revealed that it intended to plough ahead with its plan to redefine marriage despite widespread opposition.

Two thirds of the 77,000 responses to the Government’s own consultation on the issue were opposed to the plan.