From Herald Scotland
FREEDOM of religious expression is a cornerstone of a liberal and civilised society, as is equality.
When equality for one person erodes the religious freedom of another, clear moral thinking is required.
A referendum is not the best way to achieve that but in calling for a public vote on the legalisation of same-sex marriage (which attracted three times the number of submissions to the consultation as that on the independence referendum), Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic, has crystallised the dilemma facing Alex Salmond and his cabinet ministers on the issue.
They were expected to publish yesterday the response to the consultation on same-sex marriage and their decision on whether to proceed with legislation. Instead, the matter has been remitted to a cabinet sub-committee with a commitment that a decision will be announced and the responses published by the end of this month. That particular details require further consideration seven months after the consultation closed indicates that the political stakes are higher than first thought and that a legal minefield has to be crossed. It also suggests that the SNP – confident that a free vote at Holyrood could overcome the problems of religious conscience of MSPs and assuming that a relaxation of social attitudes following the civil partnership legislation in 2005 would carry the legislation – had not done its homework on the legal consequences. For an administration in a parliament that from its inception had compatibility with human rights in its legislative DNA, that is a worrying omission.