15 July 2012
Last updated at 23:56 GMT
Cardinal O’Brien has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage
Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic has urged the Scottish government to hold a referendum on proposals to legalise same-sex marriage.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien said a vote should be held because of “intense public interest” in the issue.
The Scottish government has previously said it “tends towards the view” that same-sex marriage should be introduced.
Its consultation on the issue resulted in almost 80,000 responses – the most for any government consultation.
Plans for same-sex marriage legislation are expected to be announced by the Scottish government – which has said that faith groups and their celebrants will not be obliged to solemnise the ceremonies – later this week.
The issue has ignited a debate between gay rights supporters, who staged a mock wedding outside Holyrood last week, and the Catholic Church, which is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage.
Cardinal O’Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, highlighted the fact that the marriage consultation received three times more responses than the government’s consultation on the independence referendum, which saw more than 26,000 people share their views.
Gay rights campaigners staged a mock wedding outside Holyrood last week
He said: “The Scottish government’s consultation on redefining marriage had three times more respondents than the consultation on the constitution, demonstrating clearly that far more people are concerned about fundamental matters of morality at the present time.
“Clearly, if it is sensible to hold a referendum on independence, it is crucial that we have one on marriage. It is the only way the country can move forward on this issue.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The cabinet have had a first discussion on the next steps following the consultation on same sex marriage and the registration of civil partnerships and have asked for some further detail.
“We fully expect to be in a position to publish the way ahead this month.”
Earlier this month, Cardinal O’Brien, who has previously described the potential law change as “madness”, authorised a plan to raise £100,000 through special church collections to support the Scotland For Marriage campaign against same-sex marriage.
He said: “Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence.”
The leaders of all of Scotland‘s main political parties are united in support of same-sex weddings being legalised.
Currently the law in Scotland, as in the the rest of the UK, allows civil partnerships between couples of the same sex.
Although civil partnerships in Scotland offer the same legal treatment as marriage in areas such as inheritance, pensions provision, life assurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights, they are still distinct from marriage.
A man and a woman can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.