Thinking Anglicans

Same sex marriage in Scotland and the UK

Both the UK government and the devolved Scottish government are considering legislative changes to allow civil same-sex marriages.

This post by Adam Wagner at UK Human Rights Blog summarises the current legislative situation in both jurisdictions: Gay marriage on the way… but not quite yet.

…The Prime Minister said in his speech that “we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.” In fact, to the annoyance of some campaigners, the consultation was announced by the Equalities Minister last month but will not begin until March of next year. According to gay news website Pink News, the Prime Minster personally intervened to ensure the law is changed “within the lifetime of this parliament“, but Liberal Conspiracy doubts whether this is now practically possible. By contrast, a Scottish consultation on gay marriage launched in September…

The Scottish Government’s consultation – which also covers the issue of civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises in Scotland – is already in progress, see The Registration of Civil Partnerships Same Sex Marriage – A Consultation.

This consultation paper seeks views on the possibility of allowing religious ceremonies for civil partnerships and the possible introduction of same sex marriage…

…The Scottish Government is choosing to make its initial views clear at the outset of this consultation. We tend towards the view that religious ceremonies for civil partnerships should no longer be prohibited and that same sex marriage should be introduced so that same sex couples have the option of getting married if that is how they wish to demonstrate their commitment to each other. We also believe that no religious body or its celebrants should be required to carry out same sex marriages or civil partnership ceremonies…

Objections to this proposal have been voiced strongly. In particular:

Archbishop Mario Conti issues Statement on marriage

Bishop Philip Tartaglia; “same sex ‘marriage’ is neither warranted nor needed”

FC Urges Against Gay Marriage – Statement Issued by the Free Church of Scotland Commission of Assembly

And most recently, Former SNP leader calls for gay marriage referendum.

There have been objections to the objections too. Most notably from the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, who preached this sermon last Sunday.

…It vexes me greatly to say so in public, but at such a time as this, there seems no alternative but to speak up. The behaviour of our brothers, the Roman Catholic Bishops in recent days, has been so unpleasant and so ill judged that it risks harming the good influence of the whole Christian community.

To behave as though bishops carry some kind of block vote to Holyrood, to threaten politicians and to decry those who want access to the dignity of marriage as unnatural…. to say these things seems to me to go too far.

Such comments from the leaders of the Roman Catholic church have left me feeling embarrassed as a Christian. There is a risk that all of the churches will appear to be out of touch, arrogant, conceited and rude. We don’t all have to agree but we are all called to behave charitably and there has been an absence of love in this relentlessly bitter campaign and it diminishes us all…

This led to news coverage in several places, including The Times (not available online without subscription) which ran a story with extensive quotes from the sermon under the headline Catholic views on gay marriage ‘unpleasant’.

And Channel 4 News hosted a discussion on the general topic (not specifically related to Scotland) which you can see here: Is Britain divided over the issue of gay marriage?


  • Deacon Charlie Perrin says:

    Among other things the RC Archbishop states: “Marriage was not instituted by civil society, though civil society saw its importance and defended it through its laws. However many of the laws relating to marriage, certainly in the west, arose out of the Church’s own laws and there are countries which still recognise the Church’s competence in this field.”

    I am amazed that this man actually thinks that marriage began with the Church. This is nonsense. The Church certainly did not exist at the point of the marriage feast in Cana. So what was it if not a marriage?

    The sheer arrogance of Roman prelates is breathtaking.

  • Savi Hensman says:

    I take it that Kelvin Holdsworth is not familiar with Eugene F Rogers’ argument for gay marriage (, which draws on the parable of the wedding feast.

  • Robert ian Williams says:

    The Church existed from the dawn of the old Covenant it was the ethnic nation of Israel.

    jesus found marriage as a creation ordinance and turned it into a sacrament between Christians.

    The Church helped stamp out polygamy and even the Jews suspended it.

  • ‘I am amazed that this man actually thinks that marriage began with the Church’. Well, that not what your quote indicates.

    He’s simply indicating that:
    1. marriage existed before civil society enacted laws – true
    2. Many civil laws (not all) relating to marriage were developed from church law, so its expertise in codifying marriage laws is still recognised. He qualifies it by saying ‘certainly in the West’ – true.

    I don’t he is claiming that canon law relating to marriage predates the civil law in this area.

    Perhaps, he said other things that weren’t accurate, the statement that you quote is true.

  • Of all the articles on this thread – about the subject of Same-Sex Marriage, the most heartening was that of Fr. Kelvin Holdsworth, who compared the dismissed guest without an appropriate wedding garment – in the Matthean parable of the Wedding Feast – to the problematic gay person/couple whose presence at the feast is considered unwelcome.

    Of course, this presumes that the King in the parable is not God, but an earthly authority (perhaps in this case ‘The Church’) that still considers the Gay person as ‘unworthy’ – with no clothing of righteousness appropriate to the occasion.

    Granted, this requires a new attempt to explain this difficult parable, where the tradition has been to see the ‘King’ as God, and the unworthy guest as someone unfitted to take part in the Banquet. In a sermon in my own parish Church on the same Sunday, the preacher asked us to imagine the King as being an earthly potentate, displeased at the unorthodoxy of the (uninvited) guest. He then asked us to imagine the possibility of Jesus, as being the interloper – cast into out darkness because of his revolutionary understanding of God as a welcoming Host – welcoming all and sundry to the banquet. This makes a resonance with the idea of Christ as rejected by the authorities, because of his insistence on God’s hospitality to the most rejected and outcast of God’s children.

    The Roman Catholic Leaders, on the other hand, sound more like the King in the parable – in their rejection of the claims of gay people to be a part of the Heavenly Banquet, with the same rights to loving partnerships as the other guests.

  • Chris Smith says:

    Roman Prelates have become a laughing stock when they speak about the issue involving same gender marriages. They come across as homophobic, ignorant and unable to sell their “theological position” on this subject. They appear as hypocrites and out of touch with the generations who are younger. They appear as fools. They do not practice or preach the inclusive love of Jesus. They have lost their authority and it continues to spiral down. The imperial model of the Roman Catholic hierarchy is on its’ last breath. It is dying rapidly because it does not reflect the true teachings of Jesus and is hopelessly out of touch with the rest of the Church and the world we live in. Civil marriages of same gender couples is here to stay and the sooner the puritanical rage expressed by many bishops from the Anglican, Orthodox and Roman traditions calms down, the better for the rest of us.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    ‘The idea that same-sex partnerships undermine marriage is surely wrong: if anything it strengthens the institution in an age when it is under threat from divorce and co-habitation’. – from an article by Iain McWhirter in the Herald Scotland 13th October.

  • Abp Conti seems muddled. He equates gay marriage with promiscuity and proceeds to invoke Christian values against the latter, unaware that the same values are invoked by advocates of the former. He is only repeating the Vatican’s talking points, and these are so tawdry that there is not much that can be done with them.

  • Promiscuity is a target for discouragement by the Churches around the world. If only we could accept the fact that the advocacy of Gay Marriage is a movement to encourage homosexual people to commit themselves to faithful monogamous partnerships, this could be an encouragement to the majority heterosexual persons to make a similar commitment.

    However, if the Church continues to refuse the benefits of Christian Marriage for Gays, do not be too surprised if heterosexual people refuse to commit themselves to the discipline of Marriage. This would not be a ‘tit-for-tat’ reaction from heterosexual people, but rather an attitude of: “Well, if Gays don’t have to marry to enjoy a sexual relationship, why should we be expected to have to commit to marriage?”

  • Erika Baker says:

    “Well, if Gays don’t have to marry to enjoy a sexual relationship, why should we be expected to have to commit to marriage?”

    This conversation seems to be stuck in a bit of a time warp.
    A few very religious people aside, no-one is getting married so they can have sex, there are very very few people who marry as virgins and no-one is expecting them to. They generally ignore the ones who do expect this with wry amusement.

    Marriage is about a lifelong commitment to the other for love. It’s a promise to the other to hang in there even when times are tough. It’s a promise that the other no longer has to fear to be left and chucked aside, that they can relax into the security of being a couple.
    It has nothing to do with sex. It’s a step up, a deepening of an existing relationship, sometimes entered into for the legal security it confers but usually because a couple really does want to just spend the rest of their lives with each other.

    We really really need to get rid of this obsession with sex. It is it just one of those things that is part of your life as a couple from quite early on in most people’s relationships. Important, yes, but something you do and then get on with the rest of your life – like with the hard and rewarding task to stay close to your partner.

  • Erika, of course you are correct when you say that marriage is not (necessarily) about sex. However, it is often an important component – that is why Gays who are members of the Church, and who value their innate sexuality, want their relationship to receive the same dignity of Blessing as other people.

  • Erika Baker says:

    The gay people I know, including my wife and I did not want our relationship to be blessed because of sex.
    Sex is an important component of a relationship, whether this is a marriage or a permanent partnership.
    It is completely irrelevant to a decision to move from being a couple or living togeether to getting married.
    There are many important reasons for getting married. For most of us, sex is not one of them because it is an integral part of our relationship, married or not.
    The reasons for getting married are far far more important than mere sex.

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