The Scottish Parliament has rejected Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s request that any decision about legalizing same-gender marriage be reached by a referendum rather than by legislative process.
The BBC reports that Scotland’s Cabinet ejected the request from the Cardinal of St. Andrew’s and Edinburgh, and said that a committee would be established to further examine legal issues in the marriage equality bill:
” . . . [A government] spokesman said: ‘This is an important issue and it is right that cabinet takes the time to get both the principle and the detail of the decision right.
” ‘During the discussion, recent calls for a referendum on the subject were carefully considered. However, cabinet views this as an issue of conscience not constitution.
” ‘Given that if a bill is brought forward it should in the view of the Scottish government be determined by a free vote, cabinet has concluded that a referendum would not be appropriate.
” ‘Cabinet has now asked a cabinet sub-committee, led by the deputy first minister, to further examine some particular issues of detail before a final decision is reached.
” ‘We remain committed to publishing the consultation responses and our clear decision on the way forward before the end of this month.’ “
The Cardinal had made his request for a referendum earlier this week.
London’s Telegraph newspaper report carried Cardinal O’Brien’s mixed reaction to the government’s announcement:
“Cardinal O’Brien welcomed the subcommittee but attacked the decision not to hold a referendum. ‘The serious implications for freedom of belief and expression of redefining marriage should be as important to a free society as any constitutional matter,’ he said.”
The report also noted that a national consultation, a process of soliciting the public’s input on a bill, was held on marriage equality, a record 80,000 people responded.
Gay Star News carried the reaction of Tim Hopkins, chair of Scotland’s Equality Network, who is working for the passage of a marriage equality law:
“We agree with the Scottish government that a referendum would be completely inappropriate.
“We very much hope that the Scottish government is taking this two week delay to get the details of same-sex marriage in Scotland right.
“We have always said that religious bodies, including the Catholic Church, should be free to decide for themselves whether or not to do same-sex marriages. Religious freedom works both ways, and it’s time the Cardinal acknowledged that religions like the Unitarians and Liberal Jews, who want to do same-sex marriages, should be free to do so.”
Cardinal O’Brien has already made several high-profile statements into Scotland’s marriage equality debate, including his recent decision to spend 100,000 British pounds and establish a special Sunday campaign against equal marriage legislation.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry