SNP MSP accused of bid to ruin gay marriage bill

John Mason: MSP denies wrecking claims. Picture: Dan Phillips

John Mason: MSP denies wrecking claims. Picture: Dan Phillips

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GAY rights campaigners have accused an SNP MSP of a last-ditch attempt to “wreck” a historic move to legalise same-sex marriages in Scotland.

This week MSPs will vote on the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill amid a storm of opposition from religious groups, who have called for safeguards in the legislation to prevent discrimination against opponents of gay marriage.

Scotland on Sunday can reveal that John Mason, the SNP Glasgow Shettleston MSP and committed Christian, has tabled a series of last-minute amendments at Holyrood, in the hope that other politicians will support them to protect the rights of those who disagree with the legislation.

Equality campaigners, however, believe the changes proposed by Mason could scupper the legislation, which comes before MSPs for the last time on Tuesday.

One of Mason’s amendments states no public sector employee should suffer any “detriment” for believing marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Mason’s amendment suggests Scottish same-sex marriage law should only come into force once such protection for public sector workers has been enshrined in the Equality Act, which is currently going through Westminster.

A briefing paper by the Equality Network charity points out that the UK government has already rejected such an amendment and is unlikely to change its mind as it goes through the UK parliament.

“In our view, this amendment is discriminatory, unworkable and would potentially wreck the bill by preventing the main part of it coming into effect,” the Equality Network paper says.

Last night Mason said: “This is not intended to be a wrecking amendment. All my amendments are intended to strengthen the protections for those who disagree with same-sex marriage.”

A petition with almost 55,000 signatures of those against gay marriage was handed to the Scottish Government last week by Scotland for Marriage, an umbrella group of religious organisations which includes representatives of the Catholic Church and the Christian Institute.

Despite the opposition, MSPs are expected to support the landmark legislation. The last time it was considered at Holyrood, 98 MSPs voted for it, 15 members opposed it and five abstained.

Richard Lyle, another SNP MSP to oppose the bill, has tabled an amendment to protect opponents of gay marriage from being prevented from adopting or fostering a child.

He has also produced an amendment designed to protect charities from losing their charitable status if they disapprove of same-sex unions. 
His amendment was tabled after the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator ruled the Catholic adoption agency St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society discriminated against gay couples.

That ruling was overturned on Friday by the Scottish Charity Appeals Panel.

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