SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament, John Mason, has commented on the Scottish Government’s announcement that it has decided to bring forward legislation to introduce same sex marriage.
The Shettleston MSP, who last year tabled a parliamentary motion on the issue, has said that questions still remain over the commitment to protect religious freedom.
Commenting, Mr Mason said:
“Crucially, the Government has said that Churches and clergy will not be forced to conduct same sex marriages. That is right and proper and I welcome that reassurance – even before any draft legislation is introduced to Parliament. However, there is now an acceptance that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to guarantee that protection of religious freedom.
“Therefore, a number of questions remain:
1. Will Westminster amend the Equality Act 2010 to strengthen religious freedom?
2. In what timescale will Westminster deal with this?
3. Can Westminster actually guarantee freedom of religion in this regard? (There is legal advice that once same-sex marriage is allowed in churches, previous rulings of the European Court of Human Rights would remove any protections for churches.)
“My vision for society is a pluralistic one where there is respect for all minorities – that has to include both gay minorities and religious minorities.
“The Cabinet has made clear its plans. First and foremost, the Scottish Government must get the UK Equality Act amended to protect churches. They have given this assurance and I welcome that.
“We are part way through a long process for this issue and we still have to see the actual wording of the draft Bill. That itself will be subject to further consultation and debate.
“The Scottish Government has decided to legislate and that is a matter for Ministers. However, it is not really a party political issue, as we know the leaders of the other four parties at Holyrood all support it while minorities in their parties disagree.
“Finally, I welcome the comment that this is a conscience matter and so there should be a free vote for all Members of the Scottish Parliament of all parties – including government ministers.”
Mr Mason wrote an extensive article about same sex marriage in November 2011. A link to this article can be found here: http://john-mason.org/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1322329753&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1&&page=NewsArchive