Kate Forbes, the frontrunner to replace Nicola Sturgeon and become Scotland’s next First Minister, has expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage, sparking backlash among key backers who have announced they can no longer support her.
Nicola Sturgeon, the current leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Scotland’s First Minister, announced her resignation from the role on February 15. Hoping to replace Sturgeon as leader of the SNP is Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who announced her bid for leadership on Monday, February 20, after returning from maternity leave. She is one of three candidates, together with Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan.
On the same day as Forbes announced her bid, she also made some remarks to The Scotsman and Channel 4 News regarding marriage equality in Scotland. The politician said that she would not have supported the legalisation of same-sex marriage “as a matter of conscience” had she been a member of Scotland’s parliament when the law was passed.
“I think for me, Angela Merkel is the example I would follow, I would have voted, as a matter of conscience, along the lines of mainstream teaching in most major religions that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Forbes said.
In an additional blow to LGBTQ+ rights, Forbes also spoke to The Guardian about the Gender Recognition Reform bill that was passed in Scotland last December and blocked by the UK government with Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act. Forbes said that, while it was “outrageous” that the UK government sought to interfere with Scottish legislation, she isn’t planning to overturn Section 35 in court, as her predecessor intended to do, because she doesn’t “believe that is in line with the public’s priorities”.
NEW: Kate Forbes tells @Channel4News she would have voted against equal marriage.
But as First Minister she will not 'row back on rights that already exist.' pic.twitter.com/dspgxxSKpH
— Ciaran Jenkins (@C4Ciaran) February 20, 2023
Speaking about the Gender Recognition Reform bill, Forbes said that she would have found it “very difficult” to support it if she had not been on leave when it was passed. She also added that she does not support a system for gender recognition based on self-declaration without wider safeguards.
After these comments, many members of the SNP declared that they would not support her campaign to become the country’s First Minister. Clare Haughey, one of the members, took to Twitter, saying: “I absolutely and completely support equal marriage. I am unequivocal on this issue. I cannot continue to support Kate’s leadership campaign.”
Richard Lochhead also wrote: “I welcomed my colleague Kate Forbes’ decision to join the SNP leadership contest given her talents & felt it would give us a real contest: new ideas and a new approach that we desperately need. However, I agree we can’t have a Party Leader who’d vote against same-sex marriage.”
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