Ireland has entered into new territory by recognizing civil partnerships for homosexuals, a move which has prompted more calls to recognize “gay marriage.” The Catholic bishops have said the partnerships undermine marriage and the family, while a gay political analyst has argued that Ireland should refuse to redefine marriage.
Gay people should defend the traditional understanding of marriage “as strong as anyone else,” Richard Waghorne said in an essay for the Irish Daily Mail. “Given that it is being undermined in the name of gay people, with consequences for future generations, it is all the more important that gay people who are opposed to gay marriage speak up.”
A law creating civil partnerships for homosexuals came into effect in Ireland on January 1. Six partnerships were registered after the parties sought court exemptions from a three-month waiting period. The first two people to register without an exemption were Barry Dignam and Hugh Walsh, who registered on April 5.
Dignam told the Irish Times he supports “gay marriage,” but unlike some he did not believe the partnerships should be boycotted until same-sex unions are recognized by the state as marriages.
Waghorne, however, said the creation of civil unions would be “a good time to declare victory and go home.”
He criticized the drive for same-sex “marriage” as not only unnecessary, but verging on “selfishness.”
“The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting,” he commented. “Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman.”
Marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not, he pointed out, saying that “a wealth of research” demonstrates the benefits the marriage of a man and a woman provides children.
“Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference?” Waghorne asked.
He voiced his “growing irritation” that “principled opponents of gay marriage have put up with a stream of abuse for explaining their position” and have to contend with the charge that they are “bigoted or homophobic.”
The Irish bishops’ conference said that the civil partnership legislation “is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order.” It contradicts the Irish Constitution’s pledge to “guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded.”
“Marriage is a unique union, a relationship different from all others,” they continued in “Why Marriage Matters,” their March 2010 pamphlet. “God is (the) author of marriage.”
Same-sex unions, the bishops said, are “contrary to God’s plan for sexual love” and all Christians are called to holiness and chastity.
They acknowledged the “real issue” about how the law should protect those involved in long-term, mutually dependent relationships, such as elderly siblings or a man who shares a house with his wife’s sisters after she dies.
However, the bishops noted the bill only protects those who are in a sexual relationship.
“This is real discrimination – choosing to help one vulnerable group over another when they are in similar circumstances,” they said.
They also warned of the “very alarming aspect” of the legislation which penalizes a civil registrar who refuses to carry out a partnership ceremony will face a fine and up to six months in prison. They called this “an extraordinary and far-reaching attack” on freedom of conscience and religion.