The Scottish Government's decision to introduce gay marriage is mistaken for the reason that it fails, as does your editorial ("Saying I do to marriage", The Herald, July 26) to distinguish between equality and sameness.

No clear-headed person is going to say that a partnership of two men, or of two women for that matter, is the same reality in all essential respects as the conjugal relationship of a man and a woman.

I do not deny the competence of parliament to legislate for such partnerships in order to put them on a basis of equality before the law, in the belief that it may be good for the partners to enjoy the stability which married couples already enjoy and the fiscal advantages resulting from the state's acknowledgement of them. But no government has the competence to declare that two realities which differ significantly in their moral and social character are the same and indeed there are no imperative grounds in any declaration of human rights to countenance it, thus subverting the universally accepted definition of marriage.

Furthermore, I believe that more respect would be accorded across society to such partnerships when their integrity is expressed in a way which acknowledges their difference. I thought it was also the Scottish Government's concern that both equality and diversity should be respected in Scottish society. Your statement that "now there is to be complete equality for the first time" misses the mark completely. It will not be a united country when a significant number of its citizens, whether a majority or a minority, on grounds both of reason and of faith, are opposed and will continue to be opposed to this unwise and unnecessary action of the Scottish Government.

(Most Rev) Mario Conti,

Apostolic Administrator, Archdiocese of Glasgow, 196 Clyde Street, Glasgow.

I AM perplexed by the responses of many of your recent correspondents over the equal marriage announcement. If you strip out the responses to the consultation received from outwith Scotland, then the picture changes somewhat with a majority agreeing with equal marriage, as indeed it does if you remove the "tick box" responses and petitions and consider only those who took the time to complete the entire form. The polls all back this up, and it would therefore seem quite clear that there is a majority view in this country for allowing same-sex marriages.

I married my same-sex partner in a religious ceremony abroad (in her country). This was the same South Africa which everybody was throwing stones at 20 years ago over apartheid, and yet is now leading the way over equality. Our problem is that when we board a plane at Cape Town, we're a married couple, but when we disembark in Glasgow, we're no longer regarded as married. I thank Nicola Sturgeon for attempting to rectify this anomaly. She will have her place in the history of the struggle for equality in the same way as Wendy Alexander, who faced down all the same critics and courageously lead the way to the repeal of Clause 2A more than 10 years ago.

If voters are going to desert the SNP in droves over this issue, whom will they vote for instead? After all, all the parties at Holyrood are in favour of this change and a large majority of MSPs from all parties have signed the equal marriage pledge.

Mrs Jaye Richards-Hill,

24 Dorchester Avenue, Glasgow.

Richard A McKenzie raises pertinent issues (Letters, July 27). The philosopher Wittgenstein said: "The meaning is the use." Dictionaries do not control us, we control them. They change all the time and give the current meanings when there are several (in good dictionaries, that is).

If two or more people (regardless of gender) say they are married, who is to disagree? Many couples already do, and even hold ceremonies to celebrate and solemnise the commitment. This means that dictionaries are currently in the process of changing the meaning of this word.Why should any religion dictate to the country what it is to be married? What is the loss to the country of leaving it up to the people themselves what their commitment means and what it should be called?

God forbid that the Reader's Digest should set the standard of meaning of anything. Even the bishop might agree with that.

William Scott,

23 Argyle Place, Rothesay.

Much has been made about the majority of responses to the consultation on same-sex marriage being against the proposals and the lack of democracy in ignoring this "majority". This was a consultation, not a referendum, and its purpose was to seek the range of opinions. Many thousand of postcards came from the Catholic Church's anti-gay marriage campaign and these postcards only contained one possible response, "No". Had the church hierarchy the courage of their convictions they would have offered their congregations a free vote ... a vote of conscience. We should remember Scotland is a country where couples have a choice.

Ross Wright,

Celebrant and spokesman, Humanist Society Scotland, 272 Bath Street, Glasgow.

IT is a strange democracy we live in where to hold a traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman is to risk the triple accusations of being homophobic, intolerant and scaremongering. Now, according to Brian Dempsey (Letters, July 27), we can add "being not very intelligent" to that list, because organised campaigns tend to submit unsubstantiated views without taking the trouble to read the questions. As a former academic who has worked with research methods I was interested to study the results of the same-sex marriage consultation. Of all of the 77,508 responses, 67% were opposed to introducing same-sex marriage. Yet one figure that is quoted is, if you remove all those from outside Scotland and then remove those who responded by postcard (90% against) but include those who used the consultation form or a prepared letter (100% for) then of the 30,261 left in the sample you can indeed get a figure of 65% in favour of gay marriage. But if you are not very intelligent you would never be able to work that out.

Michael Jordan,

73 Busby Road, Clarkston.

IAN Thomson asks (Letters, July 27) why the Scottish Government has "dismissed" the results of their consultation on same-sex marriage. It did not. The consultation analysis report makes clear that many different policy points were raised by respondents and that all were considered by the Government.

Consultations are not a numbers game; they are not mini-referenda. If they were, the door would be open to any special interest group to veto any Government policy simply by arranging for 25,000 people to send in pre-printed postcards opposing the policy.

That is exactly what the Catholic Church did in the case of same-sex marriage. It distributed 200,000 postcards, of which 25,000 were returned. When those and other campaign postcards and petitions are removed from the count, two-thirds of the Scottish responses to the consultation were in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.

Tim Hopkins,

Equality Network, 30 Bernard Street, Edinburgh.

I FIND Brian Dempsey's assertion that people who sign petitions have not given serious consideration to the issues involved extremely insulting. Over the years I have signed several petitions and in most cases the mere signing represented the fruit of considerable research and thought over many years. If others are articulating a case with which I sincerely concur why do I need to cut down some more forests to prove that I can think? I abhor homophobia but am totally opposed to the suggestion that we should abolish the distinction between civil partnership (where children cannot be created or nurtured by people of differing sexes) and marriage (where it may be possible for children to be created and nurtured by people of the opposite sex). The distinction is fundamental to our social structures.

The suggestion that there is something unworthy about campaigns which seek to affirm the importance of marriage is deeply disturbing. There can be no doubt that the gay/lesbian groups have been highly organised over the years. That is their right. A free society requires that all views are aired. If the representatives of some sections of society promote views with which others profoundly disagree it is inevitable, and indeed necessary, that other groups will emerge. They should be given respect for their existence and their views.

Incidentally the logic of Brian Dempsey's letter would seem to suggest that all polls of public opinion are invalid as there is no evidence that the respondents have fully researched or understood the issues.

(Rev) Bill Wallace,

29 Station Road, Banchory.