A CALL has been made for Kate Forbes to withdraw from the SNP race amid a backlash to her opposition to equal marriage.

Josh Mennie, a leading LBGT rights activist in the party, urged Ms Forbes to quit saying he never believed someone holding such a view could be standing to be First Minister of Scotland.

Mr Mennie, who is backing Humza Yousaf in the contest, also called for Ash Regan to pull out arguing neither she nor Ms Forbes had committed to the party’s 2021 manifesto on gender recognition reform.

He said he would like other senior politicians including transport minister Jenny Gilruth and rural affairs and tourism minister Mairi Gougeon to throw their hats into the ring.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes may have breached SNP rules on transphobia

"The views expressed by Kate Forbes were something that I raised a number of years ago publicly when she stepped in for Derek Mackay as finance secretary. I received a torrent of abuse for doing so and for raising concerns about the anti-abortion, anti equal marriage views and anti-trans views she held at the time," said Mr Mennie, a former convener of Out for Independence, the SNP's LGBT wing.

"At the time I said people holding senior positions in the party and in government should be scrutinised over their opinions. I received so much hate on line for just asking questions about it. But I am now glad that people are now talking openly about her anti-LGBT and anti abortions views and that people are starting to take notice."

Mr Mennie has been a strong advocate in the party for the reforms passed in Holyrood under the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (GRRB) making it easier for a person to change their legal gender.

The Bill was blocked from getting royal assent by the UK Government under a Section 35 order of the Scotland Act with Ms Sturgeon saying her government would seek to challenge this move legally. Both Ms Forbes and Ms Regan have said they would not seek legal action against the use of the Section 35 order.

The legislation cut the length of time someone has to live in their acquired gender, removed the need for a medical diagnosis of gender disphoria and lowered the age from 18 to 16 for obtaining a gender recognition certificate, allowing them to marry in their new gender and for their death to be registered in their new gender.

A commitment to reform the current law was made in the SNP's 2021 manifesto for the Holyrood elections.

He added: "Some one who was elected on a progressive SNP manifesto should be looking to follow that through.

"Both Kate and Ash Regan were elected on a progressive manifesto in 2021. Obviously Ash voted against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and Kate has said she would not have voted for it.

"But not only that now they are saying in their leadership bids they would overturn something the electorate voted for. People who are speaking against the manifesto they were elected on shouldn't be running for party leader.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes says her campaign for SNP leader is 'absolutely not over'

"The SNP is a progressive party. We have made Scotland a world leader on LGBT inclusion. Why we would look to elect a leader who would entirely diminish that work is entirely beyond me. I am glad a lot of people are now sharing the same sort of concerns I've held for some time."

Mr Mennie went on: "It's now become normal for a prospective First Minister to say 'I don't believe in gay marriage'. I never wanted to believe ...that some one running for First Minister of Scotland would have that view. 

"I am publicly backing Humza, but I would back others coming forward to stand. People like Jenny Gilruth and Mairi Gougeon would make fantastic contenders."

Ms Forbes said on Monday her moral view on marriage was in line with mainstream Christian thinking that it should be between a man and a woman.

However, this afternoon a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland Lorna Hood took issue with her statement.

Rev Lorna Hood tweeted: "I admire Kate Forbes being so open about her faith and respect her beliefs and her stance on moral issues as she understands them. "However to say mainstream Christianity teaches that marriage is between man and women is being disingenuous."

She added: "The largest Church in Scotland, the Church of Scotland allows ministers to conduct same sex marriage and recently the Anglican Communion voted to allow priests to bless same sex relationships. We must never forget the basic tenet of Christianity is love, respect & tolerance."

Earlier today Ms Forbes suggested she may not see out her SNP leadership campaign, insisting she is still in the running to replace Nicola Sturgeon “at the moment”.

The finance secretary, along with Ms Yousaf and Ms Regan, are vying to become the next first minister after Ms Sturgeon’s resignation last week.

READ MORE: Greens may exit SNP deal if Kate Forbes becomes FM prompting election

But Ms Forbes, a member of the socially conservative Free Church of Scotland, lost some of her high-profile supporters in the leadership contest after she said she would not have voted for gay marriage.

She has now said that having children outside of marriage “would be wrong according to my faith” and is something she would personally “seek to avoid”.

Asked for her views on this, Ms Forbes told Sky News that having a child out of wedlock “would be wrong according to my faith”, but stressed it was a choice for people to make in a free society.

She also said she had “celebrated” babies born to family members and friends who were unmarried.

“We either live in a tolerant society where I can celebrate the birth of children, irrespective of the family, or not and do celebrate those lives being brought into the world.”

Ms Forbes was on maternity leave following the birth of her first child last year when she launched her campaign to succeed Ms Sturgeon on Monday.

Within hours she had revealed she would not have voted for same-sex marriage if she had been in Holyrood when the legislation was passed, with these comments seeing her lose the support of some high-profile backers, including employment minister Richard Lochhead, public finance minister Tom Arthur, and children’s minister Clare Haughey.

Asked by STV News if she was still committed to seeing her campaign through, despite that loss of support, Ms Forbes said: “At the moment, yes.”

She added “at the moment” she was committed to continuing her campaign until March 27 – when the ballot for SNP members to choose their party’s new leader closes.

Ms Forbes had earlier said that to speak forthrightly about her religious views, she had tried to “answer straight questions with straight answers”.

The Herald approached Ms Forbes and Ms Regan for comment.

Earlier today Ms Forbes told BBC Radio Scotland: "I understand people have very strong views on these matters. I think the public are longing for politicians to answer straight questions with straight answers and that's certainly what I've tried to do in the media yesterday."

She added that she would defend the rights of LGBT+ people to live "free of harassment, fear and prejudice".

The finance secretary said: "My position on these matters is that I will defend to the hilt everybody's rights in a pluralistic and tolerant society, to live and to love free of harassment and fear."

Ms Regan took to Twitter to indicate her support for same-sex marriage, saying simply "love is love", while Mr Yousaf stated he would "always fight for the equal rights of others".

Asked what he thought of what Ms Forbes had to say on same-sex marriage, he told the Good Morning Scotland programme: "It's for her to defend her views, I've made my views very clear.

"I think my track record on equality issues speaks loud and clear.

"I'm a minority in this country, I have been my entire life and my rights don't exist in some kind of vacuum, my rights are interdependent on other people's rights and therefore I believe very firmly, in fact with every fibre in my being, that your equality is my equality, therefore I'll always fight for the equal rights of others regardless of who they are."

It comes after Mr Yousaf said in an interview with Andrew Marr on LBC on Monday that he would not legislate on the basis of his faith and is a supporter of equal marriage.

Ms Forbes has also said she would not have voted for the Scottish Government's controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill in its current form.

As she was on maternity leave, she did not participate in the final vote before the new year but has been clear on her opposition since 2019.

Ms Regan is also opposed to the legislation and stepped down from her role as community safety minister last year so she could vote against the Bill.

Both have said they don't think the UK Government’s blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill should be challenged in court.

Mr Yousaf, however, has made clear his support for the legislation, saying he would challenge the Section 35 order the UK Government used to veto it.

Speaking on the BBC, he described it as "an attempt by the UK Government to undermine the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament" and suggested Westminster was trying to "stoke a culture war."

Mr Yousaf said: "The fundamental principle here is a piece of legislation passed by the majority of Parliament which has a red pen put through it by the UK Government on a whim and that is not acceptable regardless of whether you believe in the legislation and the substance of it or not."