Church of Scotland against gay marriage law change

image captionThe government launched a 14-week consultation on gay marriage

The Church of Scotland has told the Scottish government that the law should not be changed to allow gay marriages.

The Kirk's view came in its response to a consultation on the issue.

The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland and representatives from the Muslim community are against change, but five smaller religious groups are for it.

The SNP government launched a consultation in September asking if civil or religious marriage should be allowed for gay people.

The Church of Scotland expressed worries about the "speed with which the government is proceeding on this issue" believing the debate to be "patchy, underdeveloped and exclusive of both ordinary people and the religious community".

It said it could not agree to a change in the law.

The government's Nicola Sturgeon has said all views would be listened to, but added that ministers "tended towards the initial view" that same-sex marriage should be introduced.

Historic position

In a statement, the Church of Scotland said: "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.

"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.

"Scriptural references to marriage, whether literal or metaphorical, all operate under this understanding."

The statement added: "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."

image captionA rally was held outside the Scottish Parliament

Only the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has the authority to commit the Kirk to accepting or rejecting the Scottish government's proposals.

Currently, same-sex couples can enter a civil partnership which carries full legal rights but the ceremony cannot be conducted in a church or other religious premises.

A recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey found more than 60% of people believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry, compared with 19% who disagree.

The Church of Scotland said it had to reject the proposal at this stage because it "had not had an opportunity to consider the terms of any draft legislation and whether this will effectively protect religious bodies who do not wish to register civil partnerships".

Legal matters

Ministers and officials have been meeting with key groups to discuss the proposals, which would ensure religious organisations do not have to register same-sex marriages against their will.

The government's consultation on the issues will close next week.

The Church of Scotland said it was keen to reaffirm its "strong pastoral commitment" to all people in Scotland, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs.

The response to the consultation was considered by the church's Legal Questions Committee which is made up of ministers, elders and members who either are or were practising lawyers or have an interest in legal matters.

Scotland's first openly gay minister expressed disappointment at the Church of Scotland's response to the consultation.

Reverend Scott Rennie, of Aberdeen's Queen's Cross Church, said: "While the Kirk may not yet be in a position to celebrate equal marriage itself, it is disappointing that it has used its voice to deny the possibility to any other religious community.

"It seems there is still a long way to go before gay people, and their loving relationships, are valued by the Church of Scotland."

An SNP spokesman said: "There is support for same sex marriage across the political parties, and a range of views within parties. 

The SNP committed in our manifesto to launch a consultation on the issue, and we would encourage anyone with a view to make a submission. 

"No decision has been made, and will only be made in light of the consultation. 

"The Scottish Government is clear that, whatever the way forward, faith groups and their celebrants should not be obliged to solemnise same sex marriages."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: "I am disappointed that the Church of Scotland has rejected giving people a choice on equal marriage.

"If two people want to get married and a church wants to conduct the service why should anyone stop them?

"I find it difficult to fathom why the Church of Scotland seeks to impose its view on the whole of society when we do not seek to impose our views on it."

Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "Allowing couples to get married, irrespective of gender, will strengthen marriage, just as giving women the vote strengthened democracy.

"There are same-sex couples across Scotland who want their relationships to be recognised just as their heterosexual friends' and families' relationships are recognised, and they should have that right.

"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.

"The Church of Scotland may not yet wish to respect and honour these couples, but it is intolerant of the Kirk to seek to prevent others from doing so."

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