Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 00:01 by Joseph Sciriha, Msida
It is encouraging that the current discussion in respect of civil unions has to date been carried out civilly, maturely, constructively and, above all, in full respect of the dignity of every person.
Every proposed law includes a statement of fundamental importance which sets out the ‘The Objects and Reasons of the Bill’. The Civil Unions Bill states the following: “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 a marriage.”
Notwithstanding the name of the Bill, what is really being proposed is gay marriage in all respects other than in name. Any discussion about gay marriage centres on what we understand by marriage. Marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, intended for the mutual love and support of both and for the procreation and upbringing of children. In a democratic society, persons are free to make other choices too, without necessarily expecting society to redefine marriage to suit their choices.
Families built around marriage as we know it have been the foundation of our society for centuries and with the swoop of one short Bill, discussed in an inordinately short time, it is being proposed to equate another form of union, a civil union, to marriage.
Gay couples want social endorsement of their relationship, and that is a legitimate expectation. To promote gay rights is just and right. To pursue gay rights by undermining diversity and marriage is in the long run damaging to society.
Neither party disclosed in its electoral manifesto that it would be introducing gay marriage. The Bill does that in substance.
The Bill has also brought to the fore the issue of gay adoptions. This appears to have been justified to address the anomaly that exists today in that a gay person may adopt individually but not jointly with the partner. That argument avoids the crux of the matter, that is, is it in the child’s best interest to be adopted by homosexual rather than heterosexual parents?
The point at stake is not whether gay couples are capable of loving; nobody disputes that. The crucial point is whether the child’s best interest is served with both a father and a mother. Gay adoption assumes that father and mother are interchangeable when in fact they are not. Children who, given the possibility of a mother and a father, are deprived of one, are in fact being discriminated against.
The challenge of legislators is to gauge whether the electorate does in fact sense that this Bill has taken it too far and, if in the affirmative, to agree on regulation which, while respecting gay rights, does not go so far as to subordinate the child’s best interest to gay wishes, besides throwing marriage, as we know it, overboard, with the detrimental effects to society which will follow.