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Church of Scotland to debate allowing same-sex marriages

By Laura Paterson

The Church of Scotland has been asked to apologise for its "history of discrimination" against gay people and could be a step closer to allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriages.

A report to be debated at the Kirk's General Assembly in May proposes having a church committee research allowing nominated ministers and deacons to carry out the ceremonies, but wants to retain the ability for "contentious refusal" from those opposed to same-sex marriage.

The report by the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland also calls for "the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better".

A range of theological perspectives on same-sex marriage are examined in the paper, from the traditionalist based on the view that biblical writers condemned same-sex acts meaning the Church had to forbid it, to more "inclusive arguments" that the writing was made in "cultural contexts very different from our own and referred to individual acts rather than committed and faithful people".

The proposed major shift in policy follows controversial moves to appoint the first openly gay minister, the Rev Scott Rennie, in 2009 and last year's decision to allow ministers to be in same-sex marriages.

Gay marriage became legal in Scotland in 2014, but the Church of Scotland has protection under the equalities legislation and the research by the Legal Questions Committee will aim to ensure officials who refuse to carry out the services cannot be prosecuted.

The Rev Rennie said that he hoped it would lead to ministers being able to carry out same-sex marriages.

Principal Clerk, the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, said if the assembly decided to move towards allowing ministers to perform same-sex marriages, a further report would be heard next year.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Speaking personally, there are a great many gay people of faith who would welcome the ability to be married in the church they regularly attend. I'm one of them."

Labour counterpart Kezia Dugdale said that enabling gay couples to marry in church "seems a natural and welcome development".

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