I disagree with the legal view put forward by the Scotland for Marriage campaign that human rights will be harmed through the introduction of same-sex marriage and that celebrants or religious organisations who refused to conduct same-sex marriages would face discrimination law claims under the Equality Act 2010 ("Salmond stands firm over same-sex marriage", The Herald, July 18).
I also disagree with the suggestion that before any legislation concerning same-sex marriage could be introduced into the Scottish Parliament the Equality Act, an Act of Parliament reserved to Westminster, would require amendment.
It is important to be clear that the Scottish Parliament has the legal authority to introduce legislation to permit same-sex marriages in Scotland without any amendment to the Equality Act. Furthermore, any legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament has to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.
In practice this would mean any legislation brought forward concerning same-sex marriage would have to contain a "conscience clause" permitting an opt-out, based on religious convictions. This would protect the human rights of those who disagreed with same-sex marriage, such as individual celebrants or the religious body to which they belong.
There is no need to amend the Equality Act before the introduction of any legislation to introduce same-sex marriage in Scotland.
It is important to separate a religious service provided under the auspices of personal religious conviction (religious marriage), from a service provided to the public at large or under the auspices of the state (civil marriage). Many religious denominations already refuse to carry out religious marriage, on the grounds of prior divorce or on non-membership of a particular faith group, for instance. This position would not change should the Scottish Parliament proceed with legislation on same-sex marriage.
General objections to non-discrimination provisions under the Equality Act, as put forward by many religious bodies, are a separate legal issue and a separate political debate. There is no reason to use the Equality Act as an excuse to delay the introduction of same-sex marriage legislation in the Scottish Parliament.
121 Wester Drylaw Drive, Edinburgh.
Suppose I am employed in the Government education service and a staunch Protestant who, in my religious conscience, believes that state-funded Roman Catholic schools are a bad thing.
It is curious to see John Deighan, Roman Catholic parliamentary officer, writing in support of a principle that would allow me actively to work against the policies I am paid to implement.
That appears to be the implication of his protest that same-sex marriage would "pose immediate restrictions on belief and expression across society; particularly in the public sector where there is a duty to promote the Government understanding of equality" (Letters, July 20).
Is he really happy that an education official should be able to say to representatives of Roman Catholic schools: "I disapprove in conscience of these proposals so I will not put them forward?" Is he really happy that people like the aforesaid imaginary me should not be "compelled to act contrary to their conscience or face punitive action in their workplaces"?
"Surely," says Mr Deighan, "Government jobs should be open to all members of society, not only those who support same-sex marriage."
Surely, instead, Government jobs should be open to anyone who is prepared not to abuse their position by using it to impose their private religious beliefs on others.
19 Larchfield Road,
In the past few months John Deighan has gone from a parliamentary officer, presumably trying to inform the current debate on marriage, to that of simple and obvious propagandist.
In his letter he states: "Surely Government jobs should be open to all members of society, not only those who support same-sex marriages" (Letters, July 20).
I look forward to the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland opening up all teaching positions to all educationally qualified applicants. It is only fair that such Governement-funded posts be open to all.
He further talks of "redefining" marriage as if the Catholic Church has a constant and unwavering view of this. However, the early church fathers opposed all marriage. This later evolved into an acceptance and toleration of the ceremony before it was then appropriated into the "sacrament" it is regarded as now.
Concerning the alleged threat that churches will be "forced" to celebrate gay marriage against their belief because of the European Convention on Human Rights. I assume they have legal opinion to this effect, so why not publish it in full?
17 Dryburgh Gardens, Glasgow.
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