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Opinion & Analysis

Same sex marriage, religion and tradition

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By Eric Ellul

 ellulFollowing the Government Command Paper inviting consultation and the views of the public on allowing gay marriage, I have written to the Minister responsible opposing this.   But I am writing publicly in order to dispel some myths and clarify some misconceptions held by many.

My reasons for opposing

By tradition and custom, religion, canon law and civil law, marriage has been for thousands of years a union between a man and woman.   This has been the bedrock of the family unit and has stood the world in very good stead and brought stability to society.   To change the law so as to allow two men or two women to marry would bring about such a fundamental change to the institution of marriage that it would cease to be marriage and what would emerge in its place would be a reinvented, devalued and redefined procedure based on an ill-conceived notion of equality.

The Civil Partnership Act

Before last year, same sex couples living and sharing a home and a loving life together were denied basic rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples.  Important among these was the non-entitlement by the survivor of a gay couple to the estate of the deceased partner dying intestate so that, if the deceased left no close family such as parents, brothers or sisters,  his estate could be claimed  by a distant third cousin in Australia whom the deceased may have never met and not the surviving partner.    The survivor had no right to remain in the Government flat where they had lived together for many years nor could he claim under the life policy of the deceased.

All this has been put right by the Act so that same sex couples registering under the Act now have the same equal rights and benefits enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.

Equality and the “right” to marry

The right or qualification to marry is that the couple should be a man and a woman.   The right does not extend beyond that.  Section 25(1)(c) of our Matrimonial Causes Act states that a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female.     The right to marry has been formally confirmed in modern times by Article 12 of the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights where it states that men and women have a right to marry (to each other) and found a family.   Our own Constitution at Section15 echoes this.    In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights confirmed this when it upheld the decision of the highest  Court in Austria  in the case of Schalk and Kopf v Austria that same sex couples did not have a right to marry and that such right was limited to persons of the opposite sex.

In this sense a same sex couple do not have such right to marriage and, therefore, to argue that gays want equality, are being denied this right and not to extend it to them is discriminatory,  is incorrect.   The claim for equality is therefore without foundation.    Further and importantly,   by having access to traditional marriage, gay couples will gain absolutely no further rights or benefits other than, perhaps, the pyrrhic satisfaction of having achieved this goal. There is therefore absolutely no denial of any right or equality nor is there discrimination and the public should not be misled into believing that this is the case.

Marriage is for the procreation of children

The Christian Church holds that marriage is for the procreation of children.   It has been argued that a marriage between same sex couples is a sterile union which will not produce children and therefore fails the prerequisite condition that such union is not “for the procreation of children”.   It has been very properly countered and questioned as to the position of a man and a woman who wish to marry in Church but who do not want or cannot have children.   Is such argument against gay marriage therefore not a nonsense and discriminatory?  Of course it is.   The desire not to or the inability to have children is not a disqualification to marriage.   The only qualification is that the intending parties should be a man and a woman.   The simple explanation is that the Church teaches that marriage is an institution within which children can best be born and a family created because it is a stable relationship and that is the sense in which the word “for” must be read.    The phrase could be made clearer if it said “marriage is the best suited institution for the procreation of children”.

Gay marriage on the increase

It cannot be denied that there is an ongoing trend worldwide to allow gay marriage.    Whether this is a genuine desire by a majority of the people to see society develop along this road after careful consideration of all the implications and ramifications or the expression of a society preoccupied with adopting politically correct attitudes and a mistaken concept of equality at any cost is not clear.    It is a mistaken, albeit a laudable notion, that equality should be the cornerstone of any human endeavour.     Although we are equal under the law, we are all different and the law must give to each what their reasonable needs may require without impinging upon or taking from others any of their rights.  Heterosexual couples have marriage.  Gay couples have the Civil Partnership Act.    Perhaps we should invent a more romantic name for this rather than simply ‘registration under the Act’.

Change in the law and referendum

Notwithstanding all of the above, our Government can change the law (and our Constitution) and allow gay marriage.   I can only hope that, if this course is followed, it is not simply because others are doing so but that, after very careful and honest reflection and contemplation and consultation, the Government is totally convinced that this very fundamental change will benefit our small community as a whole and that it will enhance the lives of all of us and not just those of a handful of our citizens.

A referendum on such an important matter of conscience and deeply held beliefs affecting, as it will,  such a fundamental change to our way of life,  is essential and the right of us all.   Since we appear all to be so concerned with equality and rights, surely it would be the height of hypocrisy and double standards not to allow all of us in our community the right to express our opinion on this issue.

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