Sunday, 16 October 2011

Two standards better than one?

The gay marriage debate gets a lot of coverage in today's papers.
Here's a longer version of my tale from the Sunday Herald about what looks like double-standards on the part of Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie.


Tom Gordon
Scottish Political Editor

LIBERAL Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who has vowed to stand up to the Catholic Church in defence of gay marriage, is receiving personal support from an evangelical Christian group which is equally opposed to the idea, it has emerged.

Rennie’s Holyrood office is being assisted by the charity CARE, despite it describing the Scottish Government’s proposals for gay marriage as “deeply flawed and socially corrosive”.

The help currently includes free staff time from an intern working in Rennie’s office as part of the CARE “leadership programme”, which places Christians in “the world of policy and advocacy”.
Rennie, elected an MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife in May on a manifesto pledge to “extend legal marriage to gay couples”, was applauded at his party’s conference last week when he attacked the Catholic Church for trying to impose its hostile views on gay marriage “on everyone else”.
It followed Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley, warning the SNP government was in danger of losing touch with Catholics - and by implication their votes - because it backs same sex marriage.
“To threaten to invoke some sort of block vote is an affront to liberal democracy and one that we must challenge,” Rennie told LibDem activists.
“Challenging an organisation with 800,000 followers may seem difficult but we are prepared to be awkward and stand up for what we believe to be right.”
Rennie’s remarks were some of the most forceful yet in the political row over gay marriage, which has been raging since SNP ministers launched a public consultation on the issue last month. 
This suggested same sex couples, who at present can only formalise a union in a secular civil partnership, should also be able to get married, either in church or a registry office.
The government said it “tends to the view that gay marriage should be introduced” for reasons of equality and support for stable relationships.
Alex Salmond, the first minister, has also said he is personally in favour of gay marriage.
However ministers stress no faith would forced to conduct a same sex service against its wishes.
The same day the consultation emerged, CARE for Scotland issued a joint press release with the Evangelical Alliance condemning the proposal.
“The Scottish Government is making a grave mistake by seeking to redefine marriage,” said Gordon Macdonald, CARE for Scotland’s spokesman.
He said marriage was a relationship between a man and a woman, not two people of the same sex, and provided the best context for raising children and contributed to social cohesion - arguments also advanced by the Catholic Church.
Despite CARE’s unambiguous opposition to gay marriage, Rennie’s spokeswoman claimed there was no inconsistency in him accepting its help.
“This is a positive programme. It reflects that many members of evangelical churches are also members and supporters of the Liberal Democrats. “People on the programme volunteer to help the Liberal Democrats across a wide range of policy areas. They do not seek to impose any personal views. Previous participants have gone on to be Liberal Democrat councillors.”
CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) has run its leadership programme since 1993. 
Billed as an “unrivalled experience in the world of policy and an opportunity to see first-hand how key arenas of influence shape our culture”, it includes voluntary placements in politics, the media or third sector over three 13-week terms.
Although a way to foster useful contacts, CARE’s website states “programme members are at no time asked to lobby on behalf of CARE.”
It has also placed young Christians with LibDem and Tory MPs, and the Labour MSP Dave Stewart.

Footnote: After the Sunday Herald approached Rennie's office, the intern in question altered his profile on Twitter to remove a previous reference to his CARE placement. Presumably because it wasn't embarrassing or contradictory in the least.

No comments:

Post a Comment