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Those who refuse to conduct same-sex marriages unlikely to be prosecuted

YOUR editorial about same-sex marriage ("Victory for same-sex marriage that requires safeguards", The Herald, February 6), expresses concerns about religious celebrants and organisations being compelled to perform such marriages.

This is a red herring. At present, religious groups and celebrants regularly refuse to perform a range of marriages which are otherwise legal and which registrars (regardless of their beliefs) must perform. Thus, divorcees and mixed-faith couples can, and are, often refused religious marriages.

I would imagine that a faith-group/celebrant which argued a mixed-race couple was refused marriage for religious reasons would probably survive any challenge. If priests and ministers cannot, and are not, forced to marry divorcees or mixed-faith couples why would, or how could, they be forced to marry same-sex couples? However, to protect them from any coercion at all the simple solution would be to remove them as magistrates (involved with the signing of the register/licence) and make the civil ceremony the only one recognised by law. The most puzzling part of the debate is why religious groups are so keen to hold on to their role as servants of the state (in effect, registrars) in the first place.

Professor William G. Naphy,

1 Calsayseat Road,

Aberdeen.

IN his critique of Andrew McKie's article ("Cameron's stance on gay marriage is out of touch", The Herald, February 4), Tim Hopkins (Letters, February 5) states: "Civil partnership gives important legal protections, but it is certainly not equality".

I hate to disabuse Mr Hopkin of any notions he may have about the proposed same-sex marriage law being debated at Westminster or Holyrood, but it will not offer equality either.

None of the proposed same-sex marriage laws will recognise the concepts of consummation or adultery. Both, however, will continue to have meaning and legal impact in traditional marriages. In other words, there will be no recognition or expectation of a sexual element to same-sex marriages; consequently there will be no requirement for sexual fidelity, something which is not only intrinsic to the current marriage contract but which amounts to legal grounds for its dissolution.

The absence of any requirement for sexual faithfulness will make same-sex marriages fundamentally different; some may even consider them inferior. Unless the Scottish Government's legal advisers can be persuaded that there is such a thing as homosexual consummation, the illusion of equality will continue to evaporate before the eyes of those who think they have got close to it.

Peter Kearney,

Director, Catholic Media Office,

5 St Vincent Place, Glasgow.

Thank you for your editorial on same-sex marriage. The Equality Network's position has always been that equal marriage law should be introduced, and that religious bodies and their celebrants should be entirely free to decline to conduct same-sex marriages if they so choose.

They should also be free to continue to speak out in support or opposition to same-sex marriage, both before and after the legislation comes into effect.

Of course, that's not to say that others won't speak out in disagreement. That is free speech.

We think that this position is widely supported in Scotland, and we hope that the Scottish Parliament will agree later this year.

Tim Hopkins,

Director,

Equality Network,

30 Bernard Street,

Edinburgh.

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