As you may be aware the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill completed the first stage of parliamentary approval on Wednesday 20 November and now moves to Stage 2, detailed consideration by the Equal Opportunities Committee.
Stage 2 is a crucial part of the Bill’s passage that involves very careful clause by clause consideration of the Bill and the opportunity to propose amendments. There are a significant number of amendments that CARE and other concerned Christian organisations would like to see made to the Bill to protect Christians both in relation to what happens in Church and in the workplace.
Please will you write to your MSPs expressing your concerns about the Bill and urging them to raise your concerns with MSPs who are on the Equal Opportunities Committee? Please mention as many or as few of the concerns outlined below as you would like to, but be sure to write using your own words.
Suggested points to raise with your MSPs
Should the Bill be passed into law in its present form employees, especially those in the public sector, could be marginalised because of their beliefs about marriage. An amendment should be introduced to make it plain on the face of the Bill that the view that marriage is between a man and a woman is “worthy of respect in a democratic society.” This view was stated by the European Court of Human Rights in a recent judgement.
A democratic and tolerant country should not force teachers to either teach things against their religious beliefs or lose their livelihood. An amendment should be made to introduce a conscience clause to the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, so that teachers with a sincere conscientious objection to same sex marriage would be protected from having to actively endorse it. Parents should have the freedom to withdraw their children from lessons on marriage.
Organisations and Charities
Organisations and charities could find their work restricted if they uphold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. Many faith-based organisations provide essential social services to the most vulnerable in society. That work should not be jeopardised because of their views on marriage. The Bill should be amended to introduce a principle of “reasonable accommodation” to ensure that groups with traditional beliefs about marriage can continue to operate freely in the public sphere.
Fostering and Adoption
If marriage is redefined prospective foster carers or adopters could be rejected because of their beliefs about marriage. The Bill should be amended to make it clear that beliefs on marriage cannot be considered when approving foster carers or adopters.
There are serious concerns that the Bill as it stands does not safeguard those who speak out against the redefinition of marriage. The Bill should be amended to specify that it is not wrong to criticise same sex marriage.
The UK Equality Act
The Scottish Government are working with the UK Government to amend the Equality Act but they need to go further than they currently intend. People should not be discriminated against for believing in traditional marriage. That Act should be amended to specify that the protected characteristic of religion or belief includes the belief in marriage as being between a man and a woman. It should be amended also to say that no one can be compelled to solemnise a same-sex marriage
To find out who your MSPs are, click here.
To write to your MSP simply put the name followed by the General Scottish Parliament Address which is: The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP.
For further information about these issues please visit www.care.org.uk/scotlandmarriage.