Willie Beck, aged 79, who plays the bagpipes to newlyweds at the Gretna House Hotel (the original marriage hotel built in 1710):
“We’ve been doing gay marriages in Gretna since it became legal. Gay marriages or marriages between a man and a woman – they’re all the same. It isn’t a big deal for us. It’s just another wedding. I’m open-minded about it. I just play the pipes the same whether it’s a man and a woman getting married or two men or two women. When they want a picture with the piper, the guys cuddle up to me as much as the lassies.”
The process of legislation in the Scottish Parliament isn’t speedy, even though there is no second chamber. This autumn the Scottish Government will produce a draft Bill legalising same-sex marriage. There will be a consultation on the draft Bill. In 2013, the legislation will be put before the Scottish Parliament, be read by Committees, and Westminster will be requested to make a change to the Equality Act to make sure any religious celebrant who doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage can refuse to conduct one. Because marriage is a complicated set of legislation, though the Act itself will likely have passed by 2014, the Scottish Government have said they are not likely to make the Act law until early 2015.
But there is really nothing much the Catholic Church in Scotland can do to stop gay marriage now. They shot their bolt when in 2011 they had 200,000 postcards pre-printed with anti gay marriage messages and sent them out to all the 200,000 Mass-going Catholics across Scotland’s 500 parishes… and then only got 28,000 of them back.
Lynda Denton owns Gretna Green’s Blacksmith’s Shop, which conducts more than 1000 weddings a year, and the Smith’s Hotel.
“If gay couples want to be married by a minister, we’ll be pleased to provide the service. Since 1754, when young couples first began running away from England to get married in Scotland, we have been all-embracing and we always will be all-embracing. People love the romanticism and the heritage of the place. It’s a lovely place to get married.”
Asked if Gretna Green could become Gretna Pink, Lynda, who also owns the village’s Smiths Hotel, laughed: “We’re Gretna Green and every other colour people want us to be.”
On Sunday 26th August, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has announced there will be a fundraising Sunday to get people to donate £100,000 for an advertising campaign against gay marriage.
Brian Souter will doubtless have some good ideas for them. On Scotland Tonight, Peter Kearney suggested a direction that the Catholic Church may take: to imply or state outright that being gay is bad for your health. The new Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, had already said publicly that he believed the death of David Cairns, MP for Inverclyde, had somehow been caused by his sexual orientation.
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, wrote an open letter in reply:
During the programme, you made several comments about the health of people who have same sex relationships. Having worked in the field of gay and bisexual men’s health before being elected to Parliament, this naturally remains an issue of interest and concern to me. It is important to me, and I believe it should be important to all of us, that public debate on this issue should be well informed and not subject to misleading arguments.
During the programme you stated that there exists a “vast array of medical evidence … to suggest that same-sex behaviour is hazardous, is harmful, and is dangerous.” You went on to make a direct comparison between same-sex relationships and smoking, alcohol, overeating and drug addiction.
You claimed that there is “an overwhelming body of medical evidence” to suggest a link between same-sex sexual activity and early death. You also claimed that one study has shown that “the life expectancy of a practising homosexual man will be reduced by something between 12 and 20 years”.
Whether this line of argument has any bearing on the same sex marriage debate is unclear; I am sure you were not implying that poor health should be a legal barrier to marriage or civil partnership for anyone, regardless of their sexuality.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland claimed that the Scottish Government “is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale”.
Same-sex couples were first able to marry legally in the modern world on 1st April 2001 in the Netherlands. In Europe, eight countries have same-sex marriage (Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden); in the Americas Argentina and Canada (and to a certain extent so does Mexico and several states in the US); and in Africa, South Africa has same-sex marriage. So this “dangerous social experiment” has already been trialled for over 11 years, on three continents, in 11 and more countries. If we include same-sex civil partnership, which the Catholic Church is also against, this applies to more than 20 countries and for over 22 years.
So far, the Catholic Church’s claims to foresee some terrible disaster “The church looks much further than the short-term electoral time-scales of politicians” have consistently been shown to be false. The spokesman claims however:
“We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships.
“However, in the short term and long term the Church does not see same-sex marriage as an appropriate and helpful response to same-sex attraction.”
One might wonder if the Church has more pressing moral problems to consider in an appropriate and helpful fashion, but apparently not.
But you know the Catholic Church in Scotland have really lost the plot when they start arguing that gay marriage is wrong because it will lead to mixed-sex civil partnership and thus more people claiming tax breaks.
Peter Kearney, the Director of the Catholic Church Media Office, said the Scottish Government had ignored the tax issue.
He said: “The argument that civil partnerships should be opened up to heterosexual couples, if gay marriage is legalised, is certainly a logical one. And there is no question that this would have an impact on the taxpayer, but the Scottish Government has not looked into this because it has no tax powers.”
Yes, that’s obviously something that the Catholic Church should be very concerned about. Taxes.
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. [Matthew 6:19-24]