Marc My Words - Friday 30 April - Civil Unions
There's Nothing Civil about Civil Unions
This week the column is somewhat lengthy, but given the interest the Civil Union Bill has worked up both on talk-back and in the press, I have taken the liberty of advancing something more than a sound bite's worth of consideration. As always your comments are most welcome.
Marriage is like a single blanket on a shared double bed; everyone in a relationship wants it (or maybe its legal protections). Much has been said about that venerable institution and at best, much has been misleading.
Marriage is a civil institution that does not confer rights, but carries privileges based on the special benefits afforded to society. It is these privileges and benefits that are backed with legal status and acknowledgement.
The maintenance of formal status therefore cannot be seen as discrimination against any other social arrangement or group. For example, gay relationships are permitted in New Zealand, and while there are reasons for the companion Omnibus Bill to do away with discriminatory legislation, there is no societal benefit in conferring 'marriage in drag' on such arrangements.
The heterosexuality of marriage stems from the biological fact that it takes a man and woman to conceive and bear children. It is for this reason that the Marriage Act stipulates about twenty types of relationships that are specifically excluded. All have restrictions placed to prohibit progeny issuing from those relationships. Since children are not a direct consequence of gay relationships, what rationale would the proposed Civil Union Bill have as a prohibition against say, sisters being granted civil union?
Helen Clark has opined that the proposed Civil Union Bill is a 'rather conservative measure'. Oh really? According to whom? The politically correct acolytes who surround her, or the majority of Kiwis who are sick and tired of being told what to think?
Amongst all the issues I have been asked to address, not once have I heard a great clamour by the people of this country for civil unions. This latest legislative donkey from Labour's 'think pink' stable has come galloping out of the imaginations of their socialist disciples, yet again to undermine the status of the family of a man and a woman as a civil institution by raising every other arrangement to have equal standing.
Comrade Helen's view is to ferret out all our laws, regulations and policies to eliminate discrimination against gays. It is crazy that a gay partner cannot be permitted to make medical decisions for the other partner, but that sort of discrimination will not be dealt with by the Civil Union Bill but by the companion Omnibus Bill.
Some have said that the proposed Bill is really about legitimating a relationship based on 'love'. Such sentiments clearly miss the point. While we would all hope that love would be an essential ingredient in relationships, it is, of itself, an insufficient basis for 'marriage'. In our lives we love in many ways; parents, siblings, close friends, pets, and even material possessions. Love alone is not a sufficient basis for a legally sanctioned relationship. It is undeniably true that if we look around at other cultures, and at other times, the purposes of marriage are variable.
There are, or have been, polygynous arrangements (where a husband has more than one wife), polyandrous ones (where a woman has numerous husbands), and even some that have allowed concubines. Anthropological musings on this topic inevitably lead to a mistaken hypothesis however; that just because it's possible or has occurred, it is necessarily desirable. Worse, that those alternative arrangements can somehow transcend their cultural environs and be of equal benefit in another! We do have a particular heritage; one that is borne out of a tradition of a one man/one woman marital framework.
Not only has it served us well but the relatively recent erosion of the primacy of the institution of marriage has led to demonstrable social deficits, particularly with regard to rising crime, education, and health. Any further erosion by socialist 'intellectuals' (and I use the term advisedly since that is how they would describe themselves - in the real world we call them" tossers"), would simply exacerbate the process further.
Two of the leading PC brigade, Tim Barnett and the Hon. Chris Carter, have argued that marriage has a religious flavor for which people are increasingly developing a distaste. They say the alternative Civil Union would be more in keeping with today's less spiritual realities. They are plainly wrong. It may be that because Chris Carter's chosen denomination (Catholic) does not condone his own thirty-odd year gay relationship that he would like an alternative, (assuming that he doesn't want to change denominations).
Not everyone considers marriage to be solely about an expression of faith. I for one, profess no religious affiliation at all. Even so, nothing prevented my wife and me from choosing a marriage celebrant, writing vows that were meaningful to us and picking a vineyard as our marriage ceremony venue.
Chris Carter's nonsensical ruminations about the intersection between marriage and religion say more about his prejudices than it does about anything else. One thing has been made abundantly clear; the Labour Government's advocacy of its so-called 'human rights' agenda, (of which the Civil Union Bill forms a part), is based on the notion that all 'rights-based precepts' can be promoted without reference neither to their relative merits nor to their advantages to our traditions and culture.
By rendering marriage, de facto relationships and the proposed Civil Union as being of equivalent social standing, Herr Helen and her PC apostles will strip marriage of its force as the glue that binds our intergenerational social stability.
Marriage will have no special significance and, as a civil institution, its significance for our cultural traditions will not just be sidelined, its benefits will be obliterated. The political 'ideas' of the 'reality - strained' Labour ideologues have moved to legislative effect with quick feet because they know their time is short at the helm of this country. They are intent on imprisoning our future with ideologically motivated alterations to our civil framework. We are both the producers and the product of our society; children, if you like, of the civilisation we are raised in.
Moreover, we have embodied in our civil institutions continuums of traditions, developments and values that have served us well, but are now put at risk by the swashbuckling ideologies of the pedagogues in the Labour hierarchy. The politics they leave behind will blind and bind our next generation. And if those dark forces win, marriage will be divorced from us.and it is we who will be the orphaned children.