The Church of Scotland issued Thursday an official response to the government's question as to whether or not it should allow same-sex marriage, and that answer is, “No.”
“The Church of Scotland cannot agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same-sex marriage. The Government’s proposal fundamentally changes marriage as it is understood in our country and our culture – that it is a relationship between one man and one woman,” the church wrote in a statement on its website.
The decision was submitted by the church via a government consultation document titled, “The Registration of Civil Partnerships, Same Sex Marriage.”
“In common with the historic position of the Christian Church, the Church of Scotland has always viewed marriage as being between one man and one woman,” the church said. “Scriptural references to marriage, whether literal or metaphorical, all operate under this understanding. To redefine marriage to include same-sex marriage may have significant and, as yet, inadequately considered repercussions for our country, for the well-being of families, communities and individuals.”
The answers and comments provided in the document were written by the church's Legal Questions Committee, which is a group of church leaders and members who either practice or previously practiced law, or who “have an interest in legal matters.”
The committee's response says the church appointed a Theological Commission in May to examine its moratorium against training and ordaining someone involved in a same-sex relationship, but says its response reflects The Church of Scotland's current official position. The church's statement also points out, however, that its official stance is that homophobia is a sin, and “it is the duty of the Church to welcome, reach out to and minister to all, regardless of sexual orientation and practice.”
The church also expressed its concerns over how quickly the government has been trying to make the proposed changes, describing the debate over the issue thus far as “patchy, undeveloped and exclusive of both ordinary people and the religious community.” The church is concerned that the government is acting too quickly, for the sake of pleasing a few, to change an institution that is highly valued in society by religious and non-religious people.
Patrick Harvie, member of the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Green party, says the church's decision is unfair, and claims allowing same-sex marriage would actually strengthen marriage in the country.
"There are same-sex couples across Scotland who want their relationships to be recognized just as their heterosexual friends' and families' relationships are recognized, and they should have that right,” Harvie said, according to BBC News.
"Equally, there are faith groups who wish to marry same-sex couples who worship with them, and it is their right to do so too.”
On Wednesday, Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien, former Scottish National Party leader Gordon Wilson and Ann Allen of The Church of Scotland led a rally outside Scottish Parliament, simultaneously launching a new pro-traditional marriage campaign called Scotland for Marriage.
"If the Scottish Government attempt to demolish a universally recognized human right they will have forfeited the trust which the nation, including peoples of all faith and no faith, have placed in them, and their intolerance will shame Scotland in the eyes of the world,” O'Brien said at the rally, according to the website for the Scottish Liberal Democrats (SLD) party.
SLD leader Willie Rennie, however, said in response that he is “disappointed that senior and respected figures like Cardinal O'Brien and Gordon Wilson could be so intolerant. Liberal Democrats support the SNP Government's effort to bring fairness and equality to marriage and we urge the First Minister to stand firm against this campaign.”
"What I find difficult to understand is why those opposed to equal marriage want to impose their views on everyone else when we are not seeking to impose our views on them,” said Rennie. “If two people want to get married and a church wants to conduct the service why should anyone stop them?”
The church also says it is currently against any legislation that would allow civil partnerships to be registered through religious ceremonies or in a religious location. Part of the reason for this, the church says, is because it is concerned that religious bodies who are opposed to holding civil partnership ceremonies would not be legally protected, and could be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies against their will if the legislation isn't drawn up with them in mind.
According to a Scottish Social Attitudes survey from 2010, The Church of Scotland stands opposed to the majority of the nation's population, 61 percent of whom say gay marriage should be allowed.