Supporters of Kate Forbes, a candidate seeking to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party, have revoked their endorsement of her candidacy after she revealed she would have voted against legislation on same-sex marriage on account of her Christian faith.
The current finance secretary was asked during a number of media interviews for her stance on topics such as same-sex marriage and having children outside of wedlock.
Forbes faced the wrath of some of her socially liberal colleagues after revealing she would not have supported legislation passed by the Scottish parliament which allowed for same-sex marriage.
The comments prompted several inquisitions from reporters seeking to delve into her religious beliefs.
During an interview with Sky News, Ms. Forbes said of unmarried couples having children: “It’s entirely up to them. It’s something that I would seek to avoid for me personally.
“But it doesn’t fuss me, it doesn’t put me up nor down, the choices that other people make.
“In terms of my faith, my faith would say that sex is for marriage, and that’s the approach that I would practice.”
The SNP politician issued her responses with the important caveat that she would not seek to change legislation already enacted by the Scottish parliament. “For me, it would be wrong according to my faith, but for you, I have no idea what your faith is. So, in a free society, you can do what you want,” she told Sky News.
The SNP leadership hopeful also confirmed she was not in favor of the Scottish government’s gender reforms which seek to make it legal for 16-year-olds to legally change their gender and to significantly reduce the amount of time a person is required to live in their desired gender before acquiring a Gender Recognition Certificate. She also revealed her view that a trans woman is biologically a man, as people cannot change their biological sex.
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Forbes’ colleagues in Holyrood have quickly moved to distance themselves from her remarks.
“I welcomed my colleague Kate Forbes’ decision to join the SNP leadership contest given her talents and 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,” tweeted former supporter Richard Lochhead MSP.
“‘We must be full-throated in our support of equal marriage. No if or buts. I won’t be supporting Kate’s campaign on that basis. I wish her well- she’s extremely talented. But I have red lines. And this is one,” said Gillian Martin MSP.
“I absolutely and completely support equal marriage. I am unequivocal on this issue. I cannot continue to support Kate’s leadership campaign,” added Clare Haughey MSP.
Forbes, a devout Christian who is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, later took to BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program during which five of the seven questions she was asked related to same-sex marriage. Predicting the response from the line of questioning, she asked the presenter: “Are we saying high office is barred to people of faith?”
She has insisted her campaign had not been fatally derailed by the uproar among the liberal establishment for her traditional, religious views.
“Absolutely not,” she said to BBC Radio’s “Good Morning Scotland.” “We have a large party membership, most of whom are not on Twitter, and I understand that people have very strong views on these matters.
“I think the public are longing for politicians to answer straight questions with straight answers, and that’s certainly what I tried to do in the media yesterday. That doesn’t necessarily allow for much nuance,” she added.
Forbes is one of three confirmed contenders for the top job alongside current Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan, a former minister for community safety who resigned from her post in protest against the government’s controversial gender law reforms.
Many political commentators have questioned why such importance has been placed on Forbes’ view on religiously sensitive issues, but little has been asked of other candidates, such as Humza Yousaf, who is a practicing Muslim.
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“I find it sickening that so much of commentary about Kate Forbes’ possible leadership bid is about her religion whilst none of the commentary about Humza Yousaf’s bid is about his religion,” tweeted Adam Tomkins, a constitutional lawyer and columnist at Scottish newspaper The Herald. “Either it matters for both of them, or it matters for neither of them,” he added.
One broadcaster did raise the subject of same-sex marriage with Humza, who claimed that despite his religion he supports equal marriage and believes his faith should not be his guide “as a basis of legislation.”
It is important to note that despite claiming he supported the proposal, Humza actually abstained from the final vote in the Scottish parliament in 2014. His appearance on LBC led to some social media users suggesting he was happy to sell his soul for the top job.
Humza has frequently made controversial remarks around race, and has previously claimed Scotland has too many white people occupying important roles.
“Most of the senior positions in Scotland are filled almost exclusively by those who are White. The Lord President, White. The Lord Justice Clerk, White. Every High Court judge, White. The Lord Advocate, White. The Solicitor General, White. The Chief Constable, White. Every deputy chief constable, White. Every assistant chief constable, White. The head of the Law Society, White. The head of the faculty of advocates, White. Every prison governor, White,” he once stated in a rant in the Scottish parliament.