By David Kerr
Cardinal Keith P. O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh has challenged the Scottish government to hold a nationwide referendum on same-sex“marriage,” following its commitment to schedule a vote for independence.
“Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial that we have one on marriage. It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue,” Cardinal O’Brien said in a July 16 statement.
“Let all those who have a view on this subject place their trust in the Scottish people and let Scotland decide,” he said.
The cardinal has thrown down his challenge only 24 hours before the government is likely to announce its official view on same-sex“marriage.”
The country’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has so far said he “tends towards” supporting the policy. However, he is also committed to taking on-board those views expressed during his administration’s public consultation on the issue.
That three-month process garnered over 77,000 submissions – the highest response rate to any consultation since the devolved Scottish Parliament was created in 1999. It is also three times the number of public responses received for the governing Scottish National Party’s recent consultation on its flagship policy of Scottish independence.
Cardinal O’Brien said this “clearly” demonstrated that “far more people are concerned about fundamental matters of morality at the present time.”
Last week an opinion poll found that 55 percent of Scots want the legal definition of marriage to remain a union between a man and a woman. The survey, commissioned by the campaign group Scotland for Marriage, also found that 50 percent were in favor of a referendum to settle the issue.
Despite assurances from the government that religious liberty will not be affected by any proposed legislation, Scotland for Marriage also published legal advice from a leading Scottish lawyer who said that such political promises are worthless under present European human rights legislation.
Attorney Aiden O’Neill predicted that a change in Scottish marriage law could see employees sacked for opposing same-sex “marriage,”ministers and priests sued for refusing to allow ceremonies to take place in their churches, school children forced to attend homosexual history lessons and couples rejected as foster parents if they oppose the new legislation.
In response, Cardinal O’Brien said Scotland’s 750,000 Catholics will raise £100,000 ($150,000) to support the Scotland for Marriage campaign if the government proceeds with changing the law.
“Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defense,” he said.