The institution of marriage should be to safeguard the interests of children, not pander to a same-sex minority, says John Deighan
In submitting evidence recently to the Scottish Parliament’s equal opportunities committee on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, I took the opportunity to repeat the conviction held by most Scots, that marriage should not be re-defined.
The wisdom of the ages, the light of human reason and the teaching of Christian faith concur that marriage is a conjugal union of a man and a woman designed so that the children who may be born of that union will have a father and a mother.
The institution of marriage pre-exists and pre-dates the state. This means that marriage can only be contracted by a man and a woman, and the state has no authority to redefine marriage. In recent public discourse, there has been a tendency to view social issues in terms of personal rights. The Church has identified repeatedly the importance of recognising the inherent rights of everyone to ensure the protection of the dignity of the person.
However, prioritising personal rights can lead to demands for radical personal autonomy which conflict with rational choices for society.
The full context for considering society’s understanding of marriage is that in which the consequences for society are objectively assessed. The well-being of children and the promotion of family life are irrevocably linked to the present and future wellbeing of society. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest it will be improved in any way by this legislation.
Campaigning around this issue has set aside the interests of children in favour of a focus on affirming the choices of adults. This approach is not in the best interests of society and flies in the face of our approach elsewhere.
We have made the point in our submission that the bond between prospective parents contributes massively to the common good and most especially to the good of children.
This is not a slight on anyone who finds themselves in a different form of relationship, it is a verifiable fact attested repeatedly by sociological evidence.
A redefinition of marriage will inevitably obscure the reality of best choice for children.
We recognise that politicians are constantly trying to balance the competing interests of different parts of society. The campaign for same-sex marriage has been given overwhelming support from the culture-shaping institutions of our society. (Academia, the press, trade unions, entertainment, lobby groups etc.)
It is understandable that this may have predisposed politicians to be favourable to the measure. In the strenuous efforts that have been used to advance the cause of this change there has, however, been a loss of objectivity. We wish to highlight again how important the role of mothers and fathers is in the life of children.
On the other side of the balance that you have to make, is the consideration of those who feel that their relationships require the endorsement of society by granting equivalence to all sexual relationships by permitting them to be categorised under the name of marriage.
For this it should be taken into consideration that presently in Scotland, out of 1,000 households there are typically one or two which are headed by a same-sex couple (General Register Office for Scotland figures).
It is estimated that only around 5 per cent of same-sex couples will avail themselves of a provision to marry. So in around one of 10,000 households there is likely to be a couple who wish for same-sex marriage.
For the sake of this there will be a threat to basic civil rights in our country. The centuries-old understanding of marriage will be abolished with a subsequent loss of the understanding across society of the benefit of mothers and fathers for children.
This truly puts the interests of a few ahead of the well-being of the many and we ask our parliament instead to uphold the real understanding of marriage.
Legislation for same-sex marriage is wrong for society. It will diminish rather than strengthen marriage and it will disadvantage children. It will divide society for the sake of a totem of “equality” which has arisen amongst some campaigners despite the tiny percentage of same-sex couples who avail themselves of marriage in jurisdictions where it is available to them.
Parliament should not proceed to make such changes against so many strong recommendations to the contrary and an overwhelming public rejection of the proposals in unprecedented numbers during the consultation period last year. For the sake of the common good, I urge our parliamentarians not to proceed with this legislation.
• John Deighan is parliamentary officer of the Catholic Church in Scotland