Religious groups say gay marriage ban blocks faith freedom

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Scottish religious leaders have warned that banning faiths from holding gay weddings will compromise religious freedom.

Representatives from the Unitarians, Liberal Jews, Quakers, the Metropolitan Community Church and the Pagan Federation held a conference in Edinbugh yesterday to back calls for marriage equality.

The Scottish government is holding a consultation on allowing gay couples to marry. Catholic Church leaders have strongly criticised the plans.

Yesterday’s panel said that the current ban is an “intolerable intrusion” into public and religious freedom.

Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Episcopal Church, said: “What you are doing is you’re denying this couple who want to make this pledge to each other from being able to do it.

“That’s what people are beginning to realise. [This] is an intolerable intrusion into people’s freedom and integrity.

“History has shown that whenever those things have come to human consciousness, they’ve slowly been changed and we’re in the midst of that slow change here in Scotland.”

Rabbi Mark Solomon, of the Liberal Jewish Community, said: “A lot of the terms in which the opposition to this is voiced is that this is an attack on the family. Speaking for myself, it’s exactly the opposite.

“The fact that now the majority of gay and lesbian couple want the right and freedom to marry both civilly and religiously is itself a great testament to the power of the family.”

The conference was held in the office of the Scottish Youth Parliament, which recently launched a campaign to call for marriage equality.

Announcing the consultation at the beginning of September, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said ministers believe “that no religious body or its celebrants should be required to carry out same sex marriages or civil partnership ceremonies”.

The consultation will ask stakeholders whether churches should be given the option of holding the ceremonies if they wish.

A gay marriage consultation launched by the Westminster government will only look at civil marriage, despite calls from gay rights campaigners and smaller faiths for it to consider religious ceremonies.