Thursday, 31 October 2013

Independent: Civil Unions 'Profoundly Change' Definition of Marriage - Mgr Gouder
Monday, 28 October 2013, 09:15 , by Neil Camilleri

The Civil Unions Bill is a full marriage Bill, according to Monsignor Anton Gouder, the Curia’s Pro-Vicar General.

When asked for his personal opinion on the subject by this paper, Mgr Gouder said that the Bill itself confirms that it is a full marriage. This is not a matter of opinion. “Under the heading ‘Objects and Reasons’”, the Bill states that “the underlying principle of this Act is to equate civil unions with marriages, in terms of procedure and substance in a manner that guarantees equal rights to parties in a civil union as are granted to spouses in marriage”.

“Moreover in Article 2, under the interpretation of Registrar, it says that the meaning is the one attributed to the term in the Marriage Act, hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’. This means that throughout this Bill, ‘the Act’ refers to the Marriage Act. The Bill also deals, ability to contract, impediments, banns, civil celebration, registration, decree of nullity, consummation, impotence, separation, divorce, witnesses, same surname, (adopted) children. All these elements pertain to the marriage set-up.”

Mgr Gouder said that his personal position on LGBT persons is one of respect, love and support. The fact that there is disagreement on certain points does not compromise this to any degree.

Asked whether marriage should only be reserved to straight couples, Mgr Gouder said that “unless we define or describe marriage, it would be difficult to hold a focused discussion. In all discussions, not only with respect to civil unions, it is very important to start by defining the terms used.

“Until very recently, marriage has been almost universally recognised as an exclusive union for life between one man and one woman who love and support each other and for the procreation and upbringing of offspring. Some might think that this is a religious definition of marriage. It is not. In fact all these elements are found in the Civil Marriage Act. This is the definition of natural marriage.”

This is the reason why the Bill under discussion does not simply give a licence to same sex persons to get married. It is more serious than that, because it profoundly changes the nature of marriage and gives a totally different definition of marriage.

Some studies show straight couples more stable

Asked about the fact that the Bill will give gay couples the right to adopt, Mgr Gouder insisted that “adoption of children is not a right, immaterial of the fact whether the couple is heterosexual or homosexual. The child has the right to have a family and that everything is done in his/her best interest.”

A child who is adopted is a child who has already been through difficult times in his/her life. Therefore it is important to provide them with the best environment possible in the sense of love, balance and stability. The least thing such a child needs is to endure another trauma in his/her life.

“Various research studies exist which point to different levels of stability in different types of relationships. Married couples are more stable than cohabiting couples; heterosexual couples are more stable than homosexual couples. Single persons, because they are single, cannot give the double assurance that a couple offers. Having said that, it needs to be made clear that this does not mean that unstable married couples and stable cohabiting couples do not exist. Likewise, there are a number of stable homosexual couples and a number of unstable heterosexual couples. Research results are given in percentages and it is never a hundred per cent on one side.

“Apart from the issue of stability, adoption by gay couples also raises the question whether this has any influence on the emotional, orientation and character development of the child. There are research results that conclude that the orientation of the adopting parents does not make any difference and there are studies that say that the best adoptive parents are the heterosexual couples. “I believe that when in such doubt we need to choose a more cautious policy which does not expose children to risk.”

When asked about the fact that offering adoption to gay couples could reduce the number of orphans in institutes, Mgr Gouder said that the number of orphans in children’s homes is minimal. The reasons why children are in care are various.

“Secondly, in Malta we have more couples who would like to adopt a child than there are children who are unable to find an adoptive couple. Therefore the answer to the question is theoretically yes, but on a practical level, no.”

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