Redefining marriage is fraught with legal difficulties and has higher political stakes than previously thought, The Herald newspaper has said.
An editorial published today said people who disagree with gay marriage should not suffer discrimination.
The broadsheet paper said the continued delay in an announcement on plans to redefine marriage suggests the Government “had not done its homework on the legal consequences”.
And it said that Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s call for a referendum “crystallised the dilemma facing Alex Salmond and his cabinet ministers on the issue”.
Yesterday the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish National Party, once again delayed an expected announcement. However it did reject a referendum on the issue.
Today The Herald said it did not support a referendum but “in calling for a public vote on the legalisation of same-sex marriage (which attracted three times the number of submissions to the consultation as that on the independence referendum), Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Scotland’s most senior Roman Catholic, has crystallised the dilemma facing Alex Salmond and his cabinet ministers on the issue”.
The newspaper added: “That particular details require further consideration seven months after the consultation closed indicates that the political stakes are higher than first thought and that a legal minefield has to be crossed.”
It concluded: “Religious beliefs which are central to the lives of many must be protected, not least by those who support the legalising of marriage between same-sex couples in the name of liberty. We must not replace one form of discrimination with another.”
The Government had been expected to give its decision following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, but after the meeting it said an announcement would be pushed back to later this month.
Yesterday a spokesman for Scotland for Marriage, which is campaigning against a redefinition of marriage, welcomed the Government “taking more time to reflect upon the gravity of the decision which they are preparing to take”.
It added: “We hope the Scottish Government will continue to be informed by legal advice which confirms that redefining marriage will unravel hundreds of years of matrimonial law, creating legal and cultural chaos across Scotland.”
Tom French, of the Equality Network, said: “We cannot understand why there is any need for further delay.”