Kate Forbes and the question of liberalism
There's nothing progressive about barring a conservative Christian from office
Sometimes, counter-revolutions start in the most unlikely places.
The Scottish National Party, which is committed to independence for Scotland from England and which has ruled the devolved Scottish parliament since 2007, is about to choose a new leader.
This is because last week Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation as party leader and Scotland’s First Minister, having fallen into a deep pit of her own making over the issue of transgenderism.
Public opposition to legislation she forced through allowing people as young as 16 to self-identify as the opposite sex (a law promptly blocked by the UK government in Westminster) escalated into outrage when she backed the placement in a women’s prison of a rapist claiming to be a transgender woman.
The resulting furore destroyed her. The reported front-runner to replace her was said until two days ago to be Kate Forbes, the Scottish government’s finance minister who has earned a reputation for competence. People have called her “principled, reasonable, articulate and very bright”.
But after making remarks about family issues, Forbes was immediately engulfed in a “career-ending” furore of her own coming from the opposite political direction. Not only did she say she would have “struggled to support” the Scottish government's gender legislation (she was on maternity leave when the vote was taken) but she also said she wouldn’t have voted for gay marriage had she been a member of the Scottish parliament when it introduced it in 2014.
Pass the smelling salts!
In addition, asked for her views on having children outside marriage she replied:
It’s something that I would seek to avoid for me personally, but it doesn’t fuss me the choices that other people make.
Pressed on whether it was right or wrong, she said:
In terms of my faith, my faith would say that sex is for marriage and that’s the approach I would practise. For me, it would be wrong according to my faith, but for you I have no idea what your faith is.
Cue instant meltdown. This even though her views can hardly have come as a surprise to anyone, since she is a member of the deeply conservative Calvinist Free Church of Scotland (known as the Wee Frees). And this even though she also acknowledged the need to uphold the laws passed by the parliament. She told Channel 4 News:
Marriage between a man and a woman, that is what I practise. But I will not roll back on any rights that already exist in Scotland. And I think the example that's worth talking about here is Angela Merkel. Under Angela Merkel's leadership, she held a vote on same-sex marriage, she implemented the results of that vote to introduce the legal right to equal marriage, but she voted in line with her conscience.
And she told Times Radio:
In this country equal marriage is a legal right, and I am a servant of democracy. I am not a dictator. I respect and defend that democratic choice to the hilt.
In the same way that I would defend to the hilt your right in a pluralistic and tolerant society to live and to love, free of harassment and fear, in the same way, I would hope that people of faith could be afforded the right to practice mainstream religious teachings about marriage.
Her classically liberal distinction between public and private was to no avail. She was immediately tarred and feathered by the “liberal” media and politicians as a “right-wing” bigot and “homophobe” who had thus destroyed her leadership chances, with four of her former backers withdrawing their support.
As others have observed, such people are effectively saying that while it is mandatory to insist that a person with male genitalia is a woman, it is forbidden to say that marriage should only be between a man and woman or that children need both their parents.
Forbes sounded defensive and taken aback when she later apologised for causing “hurt and offence”. She should hold her nerve. This is why.
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