Sunday, 3 March 2013

A response to the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership Scotland Bill

I've spent too many evenings reading through the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, the questions asked by the Scottish Government in their latest consultation and considering how to answer.

At the time of writing the people of Scotland only have another 16 days to respond to a consultation that raises serious concerns for anyone who values religious freedom in Scotland.

I urge everyone who lives in Scotland to read the draft bill, to consider the implications raised and to respond.

To respond to the consultation go to:
 https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/family-law/marriagebill/consult_view

To read the draft bill and associated documents go to:
 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/12/9433/downloads

I am posting my response publically below. I welcome discussion on anything I have written. 

Question 1 Do you have any comments on the impact assessments prepared in relation to the proposed legislation?

For most Christians their religious belief applies to their whole life including family, work and leisure. For these Christians their belief in the whole bible is likely to put them in conflict with equality legislation that contradicts God’s law in the Bible.

In the last few years the religious freedom and rights of Christians have been restricted in favour of the rights of gays and lesbians.

For example, Christians are now prevented from adopting children due to their beliefs regarding sexuality.

Many Christians work in the Health and Education sector and will be forced to choose between following their conscience and religious belief and obeying a law that promotes inequality rather than equality.

This law will have huge financial implications as many Christians will be unable to support it and will face legal action as a result.

The impact assessments completely ignore many negative implications of this law. For example:

All public sector workers will be at risk if they voice any objection to same sex marriage.

Any religious organisation that interacts with council or the state risks having all support and access to facilities or funds being withdrawn if they voice any objection to same sex marriage.

Scottish law and UK law are both overridden by European law with regard to equality and so the Scottish government cannot guarantee any protection of religious freedom or religious expression.



Question 2 Do you have any comments on allowing opposite sex and same sex civil marriage ceremonies to take place anywhere agreed between the registrar and the couple, other than religious premises?

Marriage is a public declaration of commitment. By holding marriage ceremonies on religious premises the couple understand they are making a solemn commitment before God. This encourages men and women to understand their commitment to each other is blessed by and supported by God as well as having public support.

By specifically excluding religious premises the Scottish Government weakens the concept of marriage.

By proposing this law, the Scottish Government puts itself in direct conflict with Christians who both believe marriage is between a man and a woman and who also believe marriage should be a public declaration and be blessed by God.



Question 3 Do you have any comments on establishing belief ceremonies as a third type of ceremony, alongside religious and civil, for getting married in Scotland?

Marriage law has existed for centuries to protect men, women, children and society.

The Scottish Government has ignored valid concerns raised in the previous consultation on redefining marriage and has failed in its responsibility to examine the implications of changing the law.

Humanism is a religious belief. Humanity is idolised as a God and as many gods. Humanism rejects all other religious beliefs despite the tremendous value religious belief brings to society.

The Scottish Government fails to show how men, women, children or society would be protected by a belief ceremony.

The Scottish Government fails to show how a belief ceremony would benefit all of society and not just Humanists.

The 2011 census showed ten times as many people stated their faith as Jedi Knight than stated their faith as Humanist. Does the Scottish Government intend to legalise a belief ceremony based on a science fiction series?



Question 4 Do you have any comments on amending section 8 of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 so that Church of Scotland deacons are authorised automatically to solemnise opposite sex marriage?

This is a deceitful question. By hiding the statement: "It is proposed to amend section 8 of the 1977 Act so that deacons are authorised to solemnise same sex marriages in the same way as ministers are." it is clear the Scottish Government does not wish Scottish citizens to fully understand your proposals.

The Scottish Government shows with this question that it has no understanding of Christian practice or tradition. The roles of Elders and Deacons were established by the first of Jesus disciples. Both Elders and Deacons to be people who live by God's law. The Scottish Government proposals are in direct conflict with Christian teaching regarding same sex relationships. Many Elders and Deacons will be unable to accept this change to the law.

If the Scottish Government withdraws its stated intention to "amend section 8 of the 1977 Act so that deacons are authorised to solemnise same sex marriages in the same way as ministers are." then this becomes a matter for the Church of Scotland to decide.

Has the Church of Scotland unanimously requested either change to the law? If not, why is the Scottish Government proposing a change that will cause a split in the church?



Question 5 Do you have any comments on establishing tests that a religious or belief body must meet before its celebrants can be authorised to solemnise marriage or register civil partnership?

The Scottish Government has ignored valid concerns in the first consultation on redefining marriage and I have no confidence in the Scottish Government promise to listen to views on any consultation on regulations regarding tests for marriage celebrants.

The Church was responsible for solemnising marriage long before the Scottish Government existed. It is not for the Scottish Government to set requirements on the church.

How does the Scottish Government propose to determine what is for profit or gain with regard to solemnising marriage? If a fixed fee was introduced to cover necessary costs this may be appropriate. However, is this actually needed? What differences exist currently in what may be charged for time and use of premises?

Training for celebrants is already carried out by many Christian groups. If training is not currently provided, it would be good to ensure all celebrants were trained to tackle forced marriage and sham marriage. However, how many forced or sham marriages are carried out in Scotland currently? What evidence does the Scottish Government have that Christian celebrants are being deceived into solemnising forced or sham marriages?

The Scottish Government is apparently seeking to discriminate against Christian groups that are not associated with the Church of Scotland.

The Scottish Government appears to be proposing that all religious celebrants will be required in law to discuss same sex marriages or civil partnerships in direct contradiction to the faith of those celebrants. This is likely to cause many celebrants to face legal action if they refuse and cause many more to give up their licence to marry to avoid acting in opposition to their faith. This proposal clearly shows the Scottish Government intention to weaken marriage.

If the Scottish Government changes it's proposal to state that celebrants be required to offer advice, counsel and guidance to opposite sex couples seeking marriage this would strengthen marriage. I note that many celebrants already offer this without any legal incentive and so this appears to be a law without value.

Unless the Scottish Government is proposing that couples seeking marriage be forced to receive advice, guidance and counsel? It is difficult to understand the rationale behind these proposals. The Scottish Government should abandon these changes and instead seek to help the Church educate rather than legislate.

The final two proposal's are of deep concern as already in the UK people are being persecuted for voicing concern over the concept of same-sex relationships. Is the Scottish Government intending to enable people to prosecute any Church that will not discuss same-sex relationships due to their belief in God's law?

Is the Scottish Government intending to prevent Church's from solemnising marriage if they will not solemnize same-sex marriage?



Question 6 Do you have any comments on abolishing the concept of marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute where a couple erroneously believed themselves to be married but it transpired after one of them died that the marriage was not valid?

Marriage is the recognition of a life long sexual union and partnership between one man and one woman by God and society. While the State in recent years has legislated with regards to marriage, this does not give the State the right to deprive couples of the opposite sex of the recognition of married status.

The Scottish Government appears to intend to discriminate against any couple who had genuine reason to believe they were legally married by abolishing this concept.

This will cause hurt and distress to anyone affected by this change. This will cause legal difficulties with regards to separation or death and inheritance.



Question 7 Do you have any comments on the proposals for authorising religious and belief celebrants who wish to solemnise same sex marriage?

The Scottish Government proposes to introduce a legal environment where anyone in the LGBT community can assert that their human rights have been violated by anyone in a faith community who refuses to solemnise same sex marriage. This will reduce and endanger religious freedom.

The Scottish Government proposals will cause conflict between the rights of individuals. Scottish Citizens have no influence on European Courts. We have already had several instances this last year where the European Court ruled against British citizens right to act on freedom of conscience and religion and have free speech.

Gays and Lesbians already have more rights than Heterosexual individuals. A gay man has the right either to marry a woman or to enter into a civil partnership with a man. Likewise a Lesbian woman has the right either to marry a man or to enter into a civil partnership with a woman. Heterosexual individuals are currently being discriminated against by the Scottish Government who refuse them the same rights.

By introducing this change to law, The Scottish Government will further restrict the rights of Scottish citizens to act on freedom of conscience and religious conviction and have free speech.



Question 8 Do you have any comments on opt-outs for civil registrars who do not wish to solemnise same sex marriage?

Scotland currently benefits from the requirement of Christian practice that the whole of life is guided by God's law and Jesus teaching.

Examples include acting with honesty and integrity; showing generosity and kindness; showing compassion; living in a humble way; putting the needs of others before our own. All that is good in Scottish law is based on God's law and Jesus teaching.

Other faith groups expect the same level of commitment. Islam is a way of life. So is Hinduism, so is Buddhism.

Many compromises have been made to accommodate religious belief and while not every belief can or should be accommodated under law, it is discrimination against all who claim a faith to legislate that an individual cannot opt out of performing a civil function simply because it is a civil function.

"The Government does not consider it would be helpful to intervene in this way." Yet the Scottish Government intends to place thousands of public servants in an impossible position where - because of their strongly held conviction - they cannot support same sex relationships.

The consequences of the change in redefinition of marriage will cause a huge split in Scottish society. The Scottish Government must not force anyone to perform same sex marriage and the only way to prevent this is to drop the proposed bill in its entirety.



Question 9 Do you have any comments on the proposed approach in relation to freedom of speech?

The Scottish Government are guilty of an outright lie with regards to protecting freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression.

Already in Scotland a police Chaplain has been forced out of his job after mentioning on a private blog his views on same sex marriage.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9901134/Police-chaplain-forced-out-after-criticising-gay-marriage.html

This is even before same sex marriage is recognised in law.

Do I have freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression?

I believe that heterosexual relationships are normal.

I believe that sexual relationships outside of a life long commitment between one man and one woman have resulted in an explosion of sexually transmitted disease that is crippling many in our nation.

I will not support same sex marriage.

I will not allow my children to be taught same sex marriage is normal or a human right.

I believe that having sex with multiple partners and the practice of anal sex are dangerous activities and that the Government should never support any organisation that promotes the lie of 'safe' sex. The only safe sex that can be achieved is between faithful partners.

I believe that abstinence from sex should be taught to children as the safest way to protect themselves from physical and emotional harm until they are adults.

I believe that God's law and guidance as recorded in the whole Bible is beneficial for society as a whole.

How will the Scottish Government protect my freedom of thought, conscience, religion and expression? The Scottish Government did not protect the Police Chaplain mentioned above.



Question 10 Do you have any comments on the proposals in relation to education and same sex marriage?

Faithful and stable and committed and loving marriages are the best environment for raising children. Numerous studies have been carried out recognising this.

Having public recognition of married status means children grow up knowing there is commitment and faithfulness. This is an excellent grounding for children and the best starting point for adult life.

By changing the definition of marriage, the association of marriage with children is removed. Marriage is weakened since one primary purpose of the sexual union between a man and a woman is to produce children.

Scottish society has been harmed by a continual erosion of faithfulness and commitment between men and women. How we behave in the most important relationships we can have has an effect on all other relationships.

Breakdown in heterosexual relationships is having widespread negative consequences for Scottish society: dysfunctional families; children with no strong male role model; dependence on benefits; increase in poverty. Instead of promoting commitment and faithfulness between heterosexuals who make up between 92 and 98 percent of the population, The Scottish Government is seeking to weaken the concept of marriage which is likely to increase the likelihood of additional societal breakdown.

It has been estimated that 43% of co-habiting couples split up by their child's fifth birthday compared to only 8% of married couples. Why is the Scottish Government not doing more to promote and encourage marriage between heterosexual couples; and to help married couples work out problems and so build stable and beneficial relationships.

It is highly likely that many teachers will refuse to teach same sex marriage lessons due to reasons of conscience and religious belief. If the Scottish Government is serious about its intention of protecting the rights of freedom of religion and conscience and expression they must amend the equalities act to ensure that all employers, private and state must make reasonable accommodation of the manifestation of religious belief of their employees.

However, it is likely that the Scottish Government will be overruled by European Courts if any legal case is brought against a teacher.



Question 11 Do you have any comments on the proposals on the impact of same sex marriage on legislation, the common law or on private arrangements?

"3.16 The Government will consider if amendments to the guidance are needed to make it clear that Christians and people of other faiths can apply to become foster parents and that a would-be fosterer should not be rejected just because of his or her views on same-sex marriage."

This statement from the Scottish Government reads like a statement from early 1930's Nazi Germany where a group of people were singled out in law because of their faith. The initial laws were innocuous but gradually became more and more divisive:

Jews can shop here

Jews can live here

Jews must register

Jews can only shop in some places

Jews can only live in some places

For the Scottish Government to state in law that a Christian may do something is to clearly show a desire to discriminate against a Christian. Currently whether I am a Christian or not should make no difference to whether I apply to adopt or foster.

Why doesn't the Scottish Government state that Gay men and Lesbian women may foster children? Is the Scottish Government going to state that aethists can foster? Both these examples would be seen as discrimination.

The Scottish Government is showing religious intolerance in the language used in this bill.

It is likely that if fostering or adoption guidelines are amended to take account of same sex marriages that any who have religious or conscience based concerns about same sex marriages will be discriminated against with regards to fostering and adoption.

The Scottish Government must not amend fostering or adoption guidelines.



Question 12 Are you aware of any legislation where there is a need to make it clear that references to marriage or spouse should not extend to both opposite sex and same sex marriages or spouses? If you are, please give details of the legislation and explain why it should not extend in this way.

No legislation needs to be amended and no legislation should be amended.

The terms marriage and spouse apply to opposite sex couples and there is no valid reason to change this.





Question 13 Do you have any comments on the proposed approach to the law on adultery?

The Scottish Government shows it's desire to discriminate against heterosexual marriages by changing the definition of marriage and lessening it's meaning.

Adultery is a serious, hurtful breach of trust. It is a break of commitment. It leaves the victim in the relationship with emotional damage that can last years. Yet the Scottish Government proposes that if a same sex couple marry, there is no recognition of the seriousness of that commitment.

Are the Scottish Government saying that a gay or lesbian relationship is not as strong or as powerful an emotional bond as that of a heterosexual relationship?

Or are the Scottish Government saying that gay men and lesbian women are unwilling to make life long commitments?

The fact the Scottish Government does not intend to replicate the concept of adultery for same sex relationships shows that there is no intention to make same sex marriages equal with heterosexual marriages.

Same sex couples already have full legal rights under law to enter into a civil partnership. Since the Scottish Government does not intend to (and cannot) make same sex relationships identical to heterosexual relationships in every way, this bill has no justification and should be dropped.



Question 14 Do you have any comments on the proposed approach to the law on permanent and incurable impotency?

Many heterosexual people choose to get married with full expectation they will be able to have children. This is a fundamental human desire and need.

Some heterosexual couples find they are unable to have children and this can be distressing.

While there may be a relatively small number of cases of heterosexual couples choosing to divorce for the reason of being unable to have children together, the Scottish Government has no right to decide that the natural human desire to have children has no value.

The fact that the possibility of obtaining a divorce on grounds of impotency or infertility is recognised in law shows how important past generations have seen this. There is no reason to expect this will ever change.

This is another example of the Scottish Government's failure to understand the importance of marriage and how redefining it as a concept is fundamentally flawed.

The fact that a same sex couple cannot produce children together is a clear example of the difference between heterosexual relationships and same sex relationships. Marriage emphasises the importance of a man and woman committing to a life time relationship with one of the key benefits and responsibilities that of raising children and ultimately having responsibility to support ones children as they raise their children. This is a difference between heterosexual and same sex relationships that has always existed and always will exist.

It should be noted that there are documented examples of heterosexual couples who have been diagnosed with permanent and incurable impotency, who have chosen to adopt, who then go on to have children naturally. Medical science cannot offer an explanation for this. However, the law as it stands, while imperfect, is just.



Question 15 Do you have any comments on the proposed approach to the law on bigamy?

The Scottish Government will create a legal minefield by redefining marriage.

The Scottish Government will create inequality where there was equality before. The Scottish Government will create discriminatory laws where the law was fair and proportional before.

This question highlights the lack of logic behind the Scottish Government proposals. I agree the Scottish Government should not allow polygamous marriages to take place in Scotland.

But, by redefining marriage, the Scottish Government is changing the boundaries of life which have been understood for thousands of years. So any sane person can rightly ask why are these boundaries being changed?

If a boundary is to be changed, where should it be changed to? If a man and a man can marry, why not three men? Why not three women? Why not one man and two women? Why not two men and a woman?

The Scottish Government is likely to receive requests for the latter situations because two men cannot produce children so they will need a woman to join with them to produce children. Likewise for two women in a relationship, they will need a man to produce children.

The Scottish Government has mocked and laughed at suggestions these situations would occur yet they have evaded the questions.

Here is another question, will a man and his brother be allowed to marry? How about a woman and her sister? Currently in law a man cannot marry a close relative. This has a practical reason: the risk of inbreeding.

Certainly for same sex couples inbreeding cannot be an issue. So, has the Scottish Government considered this possibility?

There is no valid reason to change the law as it currently stands with regards to marriage. By changing one aspect, the whole law will be open to question. The Scottish Government should drop this bill in its entirety.



Question 16 Do you have any comments on the proposed approach to ensuring that religious and belief bodies and celebrants do not have to register civil partnerships?

No individual should be forced or compelled to register or conduct same sex marriages or civil partnerships.

The Scottish Government proposals are likely to result in conflict with equality law so that an individual could be sued for refusing to conduct same sex marriages or civil partnerships.

This is another reason why the bill is fundamentally flawed and should be dropped.



Question 17 Do you have any comments on the proposals for changing civil partnerships to a marriage?

Marriage and Civil Partnership are different and this proposal does not recognise that fact.

I am opposed to the equating of Civil Partnership with Marriage.

There is justification for extending the concept of civil partnership to allow heterosexual couples or two people who do not plan to have a sexual union to share legal protections however this should be widely discussed in society as it will also have wide implications.



Question 18 Do you have any comments on the detailed proposals for allowing transgender people in a relationship to stay together, if they and their partner so wish, when obtaining the full Gender Recognition Certificate?

The Scottish Government proposals are discriminatory; without logic; will create inequality and a legal minefield.

As the Scottish Government does not propose to allow opposite sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, this will create a situation where a man can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, then enter into a civil partnership. But a heterosexual man cannot enter into a civil partnership with a woman. This is discrimination.

However, to introduce civil partnerships throughout Scotland for opposite sex partners will have tremendous financial cost. This at a time when we cannot afford basic needs as a country. The current legal situation should not be changed.

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