Another referendum? Scottish ministers set for gay marriage fight

By Cassie Chambers

The Scottish Cabinet will meet today to discuss same-sex marriage, despite a firestorm of controversy around them

The Cabinet will discuss the results of the same-sex marriage consultation, a process that saw three times as many participants as the consultation on Scottish independence.

The meeting comes amid calls for a referendum to determine if same-sex marriage should be legalised.

Proponents argue a referendum would allow the public to have a say on this important issue; opponents claim subjecting marriage rights to a vote is undemocratic.

"[A referendum is] against the core principles of Scotland's representative democracy" said The Equality Network, a charity in support of same-sex marriage.

"If there was a nationwide referendum, conducted fairly, we are sure that Scots would vote for equality for same-sex couples. But that is not the way Scottish democracy works," added Tom French, the policy coordinator for the organisation.

The Equality Network claims that 74 of 129 members of the Scottish parliament favour extending marriage to same-sex couples.

Prior the 80,000 person consultation, the government said it "tends toward the view" that same-sex marriage should be legalised, yet believes that faith groups should not be forced to conduct the ceremonies.

Opponents of same-sex marriage accuse The Equality Network of being afraid of putting the issue to a vote.

"If they believe their own hype, if they believe their own polls, they should have the guts to put it to a vote," a spokesman for the Scotland for Marriage campaign, which opposes same-sex marriage, said.

"Their rejection of a referendum shows that, for all their talk, they know most people don't agree with them."

The Catholic church of Scotland has been a major player in the push against extending marriage rights; it has joined forces with Scotland for Marriage to fight for a referendum.

"Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial that we have one on marriage," said the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien.

"It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue. Let all those who have a view on this subject place their trust in the Scottish people and let Scotland decide."

The issue of same-sex marriage has been a priority for the Scottish National Party (SNP), who came to power promising to consider the issue as part of its agenda to create a more "equal" society.

Currently same-sex couples in Scotland can enter into civil partnerships, which carry the same legal rights as marriage but not the same societal status.

If the Scottish government decides today to extend marriage rights, it would be the first in the UK to do so.

Ministers of England and Wales will likely be following the debate closely, as they too will soon have to make similar policy decisions about this controversial issue.