Although State Labor MP for Mt Coot-tha Mr Andrew Fraser’s proposed legislation is technically about “civil unions”, in reality it is about our conception of marriage. The introduction of civil unions will further undermine marriage.
The Catholic Church believes society is served through the support of marriage as a community formed by a man and a woman who publicly consent to share their whole lives, in a type of relationship oriented toward the begetting, nurturing and educating of children together. This makes it a very special relationship deserving State recognition and support. But the reason why the State has been interested in marriage and why it has attracted public support is because of its procreative aspect, encompassing the generation and raising of children.
Recognising this reality is not unjust or discriminatory to other relationships. Justice, in fact, requires governments to recognise and respect the uniqueness of the marital relationship.
The introduction of civil unions serves to further undermine the institution of marriage as traditionally understood. Setting up civil unions which mimic marriage but are devoid of its inherent characteristics sends a mixed and confused message about the value of marriage and the kinds of relationships we hope our children will form someday.
Mr Fraser mentions the importance of human relationships. He is right, relationships are very important. But as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum pointed out, it is difficult to imagine on what basis the state should ever be charged with legislating with respect to private affections!
We haven’t seen the proposed legislation yet, but one wonders what will be the criteria for entering into a civil union. Will it be limited to two people? If so, why? If three or more people want to enter into a civil union, why shouldn’t they? I am sure other questions will emerge once we see the legislation.
The law is not a good place to try and deal intelligibly with affective relationships. Governments should leave people free to choose the relationships they want, but they should not trivialise the meaning and value of marriage.
As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith commented, “It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to proctect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society.” (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, 2003.)
Dr. Ray Campbell, Ph.D.
Director, John Paul II Centre for Family and Life.
Released by The Catholic Communications Office – Brisbane
Oct 25, 2011