Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland said he believed that gay marriage “represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right [to] a mother and a father for every child”.

“Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Society would be degenerating even further than it has already degenerated into immorality” he continued.

MPs from Labour, Lib Dems and Conservative parties have condemned the cardinal’s words.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said “We have had prejudice, discrimination and homophobia for hundreds of years — that doesn’t make it right. I don’t want anybody to feel this is a licence for whipping up prejudice.”

She told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC TV “I don’t want anybody to feel that this is a licence for whipping up prejudice.”

Current UK laws allow gay men lesbian couples are permitted to form an officially recognised civil partnership, but without use of the term ‘marriage’.

A recent poll in Scotland found that 57% of Scottish Catholics back gay marriage.

Former Conservative MP and Catholic Ann Widdecombe told The Sun “Gays get full civil rights with civil partnerships anyway. There is widespread opposition to this plan. One opinion poll said 86 per cent thought you didn’t need gay marriage to have equal rights.”

In opposition, and pointing out that gay weddings would not be a part of religious ceremonies, Ben Summerskill of gay rights group Stonewall said “We have never suggested any religious organisation should be obliged to celebrate marriages to gay people. It is about extending the legal form of marriage to gay people in civil premises.”

Conservative MPs have also condemned the Cardinal’s words. MP Daniel Byles said O’Brien was “shaming himself” with “a rambling series of bizarre & incoherent arguments” and MP Gavin Barwell posted on Twitter saying he thought the Cardinal should “attack violence, theft & hate speech not people of the same sex who love each other”.

Main image: Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Getty)