SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes nosedives her own campaign by revealing she’s against gay marriage

Kate Forbes
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Controversy deepened in the race to succeed Scotland‘s first minister Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) amid uproar over a top contender’s conservative views on gay marriage. The leadership race was ignited after Sturgeon announced her resignation on 15 February. It came after more than eight years as head of the SNP and as Scotland’s first minister.

It is the SNP’s first full leadership battle since 2004, as Sturgeon was elected unopposed in 2014. Nominations close on Friday, and the party will announce its new leader on 27 March. All three candidates have vowed to reinvigorate Sturgeon’s push to win Scottish independence.

However, finance secretary Kate Forbes, a rising star in the SNP, is a devout member of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland. The church opposes gay and trans rights, abortion, and sex outside marriage.

Hours after announcing her candidacy on 21 February, the 32-year-old Forbes revealed that she would have voted against same-sex marriage, had she been a member of the Scottish Parliament when the reform passed in 2014. She defended the stance as a matter of personal conscience. However, it puts Forbes strongly out of line with the SNP’s centre-left base. As a result, four high-profile supporters immediately withdrew their backing.

Public backlash

Many people took to Twitter to share their views on Forbes, including one SNP activist who described Forbes’ views as “abhorrent”:

While Benjamin Cohen, head of PinkNews, asked Forbes why should would have “voted against” his and his husband’s marriage:

Despite mounting backlash on social media, Forbes insisted her campaign was “absolutely not over”. She told BBC radio:

I think the public are longing for politicians to answer straight questions with straight answers, and that’s certainly what I’ve tried to do in the media yesterday [Monday 21 February].

Keep digging, Forbes

That wasn’t everything, though. Another leadership candidate, former minister Ash Regan, stated her opposition to Scotland’s gender self-identification legislation. And Forbes waded in on this issue, too. Although the finance minister missed the vote in December due to maternity leave, she said she would have quit Sturgeon’s cabinet rather than support the measure.

Activist group Bristol Leading Against Transphobia spoke out on two of three SNP leadership candidates holding anti-trans views:

Forbes also explained her religious disapproval of pre-marital sex:

In terms of my faith, my faith would say that sex is for marriage and that’s the approach that I would practise.

But it doesn’t fuss me, it doesn’t put me up nor down. The choices that other people make is (up to them).

Meanwhile, journalist Conor Matchett highlighted one of Forbes’ most extreme stances – her defence of conversion therapy:

And Forbes’ chances were further troubled late on 21 February after Politico revealed Tory MP Kemi Badenoch backed Forbes’ position:

Badenoch is the minister for women and equality. But, as the Canary has repeatedly highlighted, she is also a notorious homophobe and transphobe.

The controversy engulfing Forbes is a boost to the rival leadership campaign of health and social care secretary Humza Yousaf. Yousaf, who is Muslim and backed by allies of Sturgeon, told the BBC that he would “always fight for the equal rights of others” and would not legislate based on his own faith.

However, Yousaf has his own political problems. They stem from mounting issues in Scottish healthcare under his watch, and from hate crimes legislation passed when he was justice secretary that right-wingers saw as an attack on ‘free speech’.

Featured image via Scottish Government/Flickr, resized to 770*403

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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