Thursday, 3 October 2013

Alex Neil's failure on registrars over equal marriage opt out

There are times that I despair and this is one of them. Alex Neil the Scottish Health Secretary has said he will allow those registrars who have a conscientious objection to abstain from carrying out same-sex marriages when they come into force.

Now the group that I believe that would most object to carrying out this public service are those of faith*, simply because in the past that is who has raised the objections, like Lillian Ladele.

Now first things first, these people have signed up for a job in which they are carrying out civic duties. They are not at work to judge on someones past marital history, level or lack of faith, race, age or sexual orientation. They are only there to insist that the service they are about to perform is legal and that there is no just impediment from them carrying out a civil contract.

People of faith may object to someone who is divorced from getting remarried, after all certain churches refuse to carry out that service. Yet we don't hear objections to that happening.

If Christian registrars are basing their objections on the bible then surely they should also object to people of faith marrying non-believers even in a civil ceremony. The bible tells them that believers should not be unequally yoked to non-believers, yet they carry out these ceremonies without objection.

They claim that marriage is there to lead to procreation and the creation of children, yet they are either praying for a miracle or ignoring the fact that some of the women who they marry are beyond child bearing age, they will marry  pensioners without objection.

What about when it comes to race? Or people of a non Judeo-Christian religion? Or even a non-Christian?

So why is Mr Neil giving them one get out clause when it comes to marrying people of the same sex.

The Bill before Scotland and the Act that came into being in England and Wales gives faith groups the right to come up with their own interpretation of what they will do will this legislation. Some faith groups will want to get on with carrying out same-sex marriages as soon as possible, others like the Church of England should they eventually choose to so will have to jump through all manner of hoops to amend the Act.

But registrars are they to carry out a civic duty. It they want to speak about their religious beliefs they should probably enter the ministry in whatever form that takes. There they can wax lyrical to their hearts content about who should or should not be married, they even have the right to veto who they marry, unless they enter the Church of England priesthood and one of the couple lives in the parish. It is not the place of any public registrar and more than any doctor, shopkeeper, bus driver, teacher, hotelier or whoever to deny an LGBT individual their public service because of their sexuality.

He is saying that it is up to all local authorities to ensure there is adequate provision, but the individual can object. What in some of smallest local authorities those based on the isles. Especially in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles) where in 2006 all the registrars there objected to carrying out a civil partnership ceremony and council initially got around it as there legally no requirement for a ceremony, they just drew up the contract. Eventually they were forced to bring in registrars from elsewhere.

So will the same dilemma face Comhairle nan Eilean Siar because of Neil's latest utterance on this matter. Sadly I think most probably and the LGBT community of the area will suffer once more while a solution is reached.

* Point of reference: I mean some not all, the writer is a Christian who happens to be gay. 

Update Scottish readers will not be surprised to see John Mason MSP be one of the first to support this stance of his SNP colleague Alex Neil, though he compares it as the same as abortion. Now in abortion, irregardless of your stance you can see that something that has the potential for life is no longer able to meet that potential. As far as I'm aware there are no plans for a living sacrifice to be part of same-sex marriage, so the parallel is possibly a bit moot. 

Jae Kay also has his own take on this story. 

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