Redefining marriage threatens social advances of women, rights of children: UK law professor
LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The debate about same-sex “marriage” in the UK is not, as the government and other supporters would have it, about “equality,” “rights” or “fairness,” but about “using law to change the meaning of the social institution of marriage.” So says Julian Rivers, a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Bristol Law School.
Any new definition of marriage that would include partnerships not based on a single man and a single woman for the procreation and protection of children, would “unavoidably call into question its exclusivity, its permanence and even its sexual nature,” said Rivers in a report issued by the Jubilee Centre, “a Christian social reform organisation that offers a biblical perspective on issues and trends of relevance to the general public”. Titled “Redefining Marriage: a case for caution,” it is being submitted to the government as part of the ongoing consultation on “gay marriage.”
“Changing the legal definition of marriage will likewise reflect and support a different view of what marriage is and what it is for.”
According to Rivers, any such change will confirm and bolster the already dangerous trends of “excessive individualism of modern Western society, as well as the collapse of participation in all forms of social action.” It will “reduce” marriage to being only for “sexually-intimate companionship,” disconnecting the institution from its biological and societal functions.
It will also create a social threat to the wellbeing of children, Rivers said. Referring to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, “Every child has a moral claim on her natural father and mother, grounded in the fact that they brought her into being and that it is in principle good for every child to be brought up by her natural parents committed in relationship to each other and to her.”
“Breaking the intrinsic connections between marriage, childbearing and kinship risks the further commodification of children, in which children become ‘ultimate accessories’ – means to the ends of their parents, and ultimately subject to their agendas, rather than persons of equal worth, with an equal stake in the success of the marriage.”
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The notion that natural marriage “discriminates” based on sexual orientation is the basis of the argument for same-sex “marriage,” Rivers said. But the real question is whether this discrimination is unjust. Rivers argues that far from traditional marriage being unjust, it “secures the equal value of men and women,” and “promotes the welfare of children.” Civil partnerships already grant other types of unions full legal security.
“Any law which sets criteria for anything discriminates,” he wrote. While it is right to prohibit distinctions based on sex, race, religion or age in political life, business or employment, “sometimes it is right to draw distinctions even on these grounds.” He gave the example of the law that prohibits children under 16 from marrying.
The government’s proposals have failed “to distinguish rationally between relationships and arrangements which are and are not to be treated as marriage in law.”
Moreover, redefining marriage to create a new “gender-blind” institution will threaten the legitimate social advances made by women over the last 100 years.
“Marriage as currently defined is the central social institution which expresses the idea that men and women are equally valuable as men and women. It is only marriage which harnesses gender difference to the purposes of social cooperation.
“Almost all other ways in which difference is acknowledged – from sports teams to public lavatories – depend on segregation. Sexual union in marriage reinforces a comprehensive ‘together-in-otherness’ of male and female.”
Rivers said that the arguments against same-sex “marriage” coming from religious convictions are legitimate and need to be heard – particularly in a country where the great majority identify themselves as Christian – but are not the only arguments worth making. The government’s proposal, he wrote, fails to address “the fundamental question of what a marriage is, and thus it fails to identify and defend the boundaries of any new definition”.
“At root,” he said, the meaning of marriage is socially, not legally defined. It is not the law that makes marriage what it is, but the law that follows the “socially-given expectations”. Marriage itself, in other words, is the underlying, objective reality with the law merely following that template.
He also warned that the creation of same-sex “marriage” will put a premature end to discussion of the open question of the impact on children of being raised in homosexual households. The popular opinion in government is that there is no “significant deficit” for children raised by two same-sex partners. However, Rivers wrote, “the distinctive gender roles of a father and a mother are important in the psychological development of children.”
“It must be at least possible that having two ‘fathers’ or ‘mothers’ will not compensate for the absent mother/father-figure.” Currently same-sex partners can both adopt and foster children; “redefining marriage will render these developments immune from reconsideration. Such confidence seems premature.”
The government has made arguments for “gay marriage” based on notions of “equality, stability and convenience” but, Rivers said, these are poorly thought out reasons for changing so fundamental an institution as marriage: “on closer inspection, these are respectively incomplete, speculative and negligible.”
The government was “disingenuous” in making a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriage in its proposal, he added. The distinction is legally non-existent, and socially, “we don’t think of people as ‘religiously married’ or ‘civilly married’ they are just ‘married’.”
The government has made reassurances that religious groups will not be forced to participate in “gay marriage” ceremonies, but nearly all religious groups in the country have at least expressed serious misgivings in the light of several high-profile lawsuits against Christians who have opposed the homosexualist movement’s agenda in various ways. Christian marriage counselors and civil marriage registrars have already been sacked for refusing to participate and the government is currently arguing against freedom of religious expression at the European Court of Human Rights.
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