The clamour for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Scotland has grown after the leaders of Holyrood’s opposition parties signed a pledge supporting the move.
Labour’s Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson of the Conservatives, Willie Rennie of the Lib Dems and the Greens’ Patrick Harvie signed a pledge expressing their backing for homosexual weddings.
The four opposition leaders signed a declaration saying that they would “campaign to beat the ban on same sex marriage”.
At an event in the Scottish Parliament organised by the Equality Network, they cut a wedding cake to symbolise their support for a change in the law. The cake-cutting ceremony was carried out before MSPs of all parties attended an evening reception co-sponsored by the openly gay SNP MSP Joe Fitzpatrick.
SNP ministers did not sign the declaration because the Scottish Government is currently engaged in a consultation on the issue and it was felt that it would be inappropriate to pre-judge that process.
But the event angered the Catholic Church, which has been vocal in its opposition to gay weddings.
Last night John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: “It is disappointing that party leaders have been so cavalier in joining the bandwagon for redefining marriage. We deserve a more reflective approach from those in a position of political leadership.
“Marriage is essentially linked with recognising and supporting the roles of mother and father. There is a lack of real tolerance when that view is sweepingly likened to a form of discrimination or bigotry. This is, of course, an attempt to win a political position by intimidation rather than by coherence of argument.”
But the party leaders were unrepentant, indicating their strong support for changing the law. The Scottish Government has indicated that it will support homosexual marriage, but will give religious denominations the freedom to decline from holding such ceremonies if they go against their beliefs.
Ms Lamont said: “I am delighted to support the Equality Network and their campaign. As someone committed to creating a fairer, safer and more equal society, free from discrimination and bigotry,”
The openly gay Scottish Conservative leader Ms Davidson said: “I support the Equality Network’s equal marriage campaign. It seeks a more equal society while recognising that religious organisations which do not wish to carry out ceremonies should not be compelled to do so.”
Mr Rennie added: “I want Scotland to be one of the most fair and progressive places in the world. Extending marriage equality to all is a really important part of that.”
Ahead of his reception, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “It comes as no great surprise that, as a gay SNP MSP, I fully support the proposals laid out in the Scottish Government’s consultation. But it is quite right that during the consultation we listen to those with concerns.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “While we have already made clear the government’s initial view in support of same-sex marriage, it would be inappropriate for a government minister to sign any pledge on this matter while the analysis of the consultation is ongoing. We expect to publish the analysis in the spring.”