terms such as “husband” and “wife” could vanish from official paperwork if the Scottish Government goes ahead with legislation legalising same-sex marriage, the Free Church of Scotland has said.
The church also claimed that safeguards being offered by the government to people who object to the introduction of same-sex marriage are “unconvincing”.
The comments came after a delegation from the Free Kirk met a Scottish Government official earlier this week over plans to move forward with legislation legalising same-sex marriage.
Dr Malcolm Maclean, editor of the Free Church’s monthly magazine and minister in Inverness, who attended the meeting, said that they were “saddened” by the government’s “determination” to see the legislation through.
He said: “If the government proceeds with this redefinition of marriage, what is to stop it further redefining marriage in the future?
“Further, having met with the government official, we also remain unconvinced about the proposed protections or safeguards for ministers, teachers and other public-sector workers who object to this new meaning.
“Even if we could trust politicians of the present to be bound by their own words, they cannot bind future politicians.”
It was during the same meeting, the Free Kirk said, that it was revealed that commonly used phrases such as “husband” and “wife” could be set to disappear from official paperwork under the proposed new legislation for same-sex marriage.
The Free Church has accused the government of “ignoring” the results of its own consultation in which the vast majority of Scottish respondents opposed the move.
Reverend Alex MacDonald, who wrote the Free Church’s response to last year’s consultation, said that there was a clear majority against same-sex marriage: “It is astounding how they can proceed with such pace when it is clear these plans are unwelcome, ill-thought out and likely to have widespread consequences.”
A 12-week consultation is due out next month with a view to a bill being introduced at the Scottish Parliament in June 2013.
Responding to the Free Kirk’s comments, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are totally committed to protecting religious freedom and freedom of expression, and ensuring that religious celebrants opposed to same sex marriage do not have to solemnise same-sex ceremonies.”
Equality Network’s policy coordinator, Tom French, said as far as he was aware, neither side of the debate had been involved in official meetings with Alex Neil, who is leading the legislation, on what the government’s firm proposals for further safeguards will be.
“What we do know is that no religious body will be required to carry out same-sex marriages, that is very clear, it’s covered by the Equality Act and European law,” he said.
“They are also going that step further because there’s a situation whereby some religious groups might want some of their celebrants to be able to, but not force everyone to, conduct same-sex marriages.”