Schools will be banned from promoting a traditional understanding of marriage if same sex marriage becomes law according to Britain's senior catholic, Cardinal Keith O Brien.
The Cardinal s comments come as the campaign group Scotland For Marriage released details of a legal opinion from a prominent QC who specialises in European human rights and employment law.
And parents will face serious difficulty if they try to stop their children being forced to attend sex education lessons in which the new vision of marriage is taught.
Based on counsel s opinion, the umbrella protest group Scotland For Marriage which is spearheading opposition to the proposed law, fears classrooms will be flooded with teaching materials - including books and pamphlets
- which will promote gay marriage in schools.
The legal opinion by prominent QC Aidan O Neill, states emphatically that parents will be hard pressed to use human rights laws to to prevent their children attending such lessons.
The QC was asked to give his views on the potential impact of same sex marriage laws on the content of what children might be taught in state funded Scottish schools and how it might conflict with the religious and philosophical convictions of parents.
In his hard-hitting opinion, Mr O Neill states:
The extension of marriage to same sex couples is not one currently required under and in terms of the European Convention of Human Rights.
But if this is done, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights makes it clear that parents with older traditional and often religiously based views which insist on no marriage without committed and faithful heterosexual sex “ will be hard-pressed to rely upon their Convention rights as parents to ensure education and teaching by the state of their children in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
The QC goes on to state that it will be equally problematic for parents to insist that their children be excused from attendance at any sex education classes in which this new vision of marriage is taught and promoted .
His legal opinion explains:
The way in which the curriculum is delivered by school is covered by the anti-discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010 such that pupils should not be taught in a manner which may be thought to subject them to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Scottish Ministers and local education authorities have obligation to have due regard to the need to tackle prejudice and promote understanding in relation to matters of different sexual orientation.
This duty applies regardless of whether marriage be opened to same sex couples.
Reacting to the legal advice, Cardinal O Brien said;
"It is clear that Scotland's schools will be banned from promoting a traditional understanding of marriage if same sex marriage becomes law.
"This means that the reassurances offered by the Scottish Government that schools and churches will be protected have been utterly hollow.
"I would urge the Scottish Government not to make promises they cannot fulfil or offer protection it is not in their power to provide.
If they enact Same Sex Marriage legislation there is no question that the work of Catholic schools and parishes will be impaired, undermined and damaged"
Cardinal O Brien concluded;
Once the law stigmatises the beliefs of Christians and those of other faiths a door will open to persecution and discrimination.
A Scotland For Marriage spokesman said:
"This is a damning verdict which demonstrates the far-reaching and divisive impact of the proposed legislation. It is paramount that the rights of ordinary parents are not ignored."
The spokesman added:
"In addition, we believe there will be further ramifications. There will be serious questions about our teachers. If the legislation is approved and marriage is redefined we hold genuine fears that teachers may find thermselves open to disciplinary action if they voice their support for traditional marriage in the classroom."
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Notes to Editors:
1 An MP3 of Cardinal O Brien s reaction is available on request.
2 Examples of same sex teaching materials which have been used elsewhere and which are promoted by leading Homosexual campaign groups in Scotland can be seen here;
3.Aidan O Neill QC also stated:
Scottish Ministers have the power under the Scotland Act to take any action which might be said to be in implementation of the United Kingdom s international obligations, including all those under the European Social Charter.
The European Social Charter has been interpreted as mandating the provision of sex education classes in state schools to ˜ensure the effective exercise of the right to protection of health by means of non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health education which does not perpetuate or reinforce social exclusion and the denial of human dignity ¦. often experienced by historically marginalised groups such as persons of non-heterosexual orientation .
This is also a duty which may be said to apply to the Scottish Ministers under the current state of marriage law.
The QC says there are other implications from same sex marriage laws.
If it becomes possible for parties of the same sex to marry one another then this will have consequential changes to the general law of marriage since (heterosexual) non-consummation will no longer be a ground for annulment of such a (same “sex) marriage, and adultery would either have to be re-defined to include specific form of same sex sexual acts, or adultery abandoned altogether as a separate and distinct grounds of establishing the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, whether between an opposite sex or a same sex couple.
In effect the symbolism of extending marriage to same sex couples is not simply one of the law and society s recognition of equality of regard and worth between opposite sex and same sex committed relationships, but may be said to involve the very removal, from the law, of the idea of sexual acts as being a necessary concomitant of any marriage. This may perhaps be said to be simply the logical corollary and culmination of the now almost universal social acceptance that sex does not require marriage. The ultimate symbolism of the change is then a great divorce between marriage and sex.
The change in the law will mean that one can have a valid and binding marriage without sex; just as socially one may have sex without a valid and binding marriage.