SNP frontrunner Kate Forbes sparks backlash after saying she would’ve voted against equal marriage 

Kaet Forbes and Nicola Sturgeon

Kate Forbes, the favourite candidate to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first minister, has said she would not have voted for same-sex marriage “on her conscious”. 

Finance secretary Forbes, who has been the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch since 2016, officially launched her campaign to become Scotland’s new first minister on Monday (20 February). 

On the same day as announcing her bid, the politician made some choice comments on equal marriage which resulted in swift backlash from her supporters who just hours earlier had backed Forbes. 

The leadership hopeful told The Scotsman and Channel 4 News that she would not have supported equal marriage as a “matter of conscience” if she had been a member of parliament when the legislation was passed. 

“I think for me, Angela Merkel is the example I would follow, I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

“But I would have respected and defended the democratic choice that was made. It is legal right now and I am a servant of democracy, I am not a dictator,” she said. 

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Same-sex marriage was passed in Scotland with an overwhelming majority of 105 to 18. 

In response to Forbes’ words, many SNP members retracted their support for her campaign.

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Clare Haughey, the MSP for Rutherglen, tweeted: “I absolutely and completely support equal marriage. I am unequivocal on this issue. I cannot continue to support Kate’s leadership campaign.”

Richard Lochhead, the SMP for Moray, wrote: “I welcomed my colleague Kate Forbes’ decision to join the SNP leadership contest given her talents & felt it would give us a real contest: new ideas and a new approach that we desperately need.

“However, I agree we can’t have a Party Leader who’d vote against same sex marriage.”

Kate Forbes appeared on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland on Tuesday (21 February) and was asked if her campaign was over before it had even started.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “We have a large party membership, most of whom are not on Twitter.

“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. That doesn’t necessarily allow much for nuance.

“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 live free of harassment and fear.”

Kate Forbes might not challenge Westminster on Section 35

In a double blow to the LGBTQ+ community, Forbes also told BBC News she has “significant concerns” about self-ID and would not have voted for Scotland’s landmark gender reform bill. 

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Forbes, who was on maternity leave at the time and so did not participate in the final vote on the legislation, added she would “loathe to challenge” the UK government’s decision to veto the bill using Section 35.

Forbes said: “I understand the principle here, which is that the UK government should not overturn Scottish legislation.

“That is an important principle which I hold to.

“But I think on this… seek legal advice and recognise it is not a priority right now for the people of Scotland, who are focused on other things.”

As PinkNews previously reported, Forbes has a worrying track record when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and other issues. 

A member of the Free Church of Scotland, a denomination that seeks to reflect “clear Biblical teaching”, Forbes has previously spoken out against abortion and in 2019 signed a letter calling on the Scottish government to delay plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

The church has vocally opposed same-sex marriage, abortion and a ban on conversion therapy.

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