Saturday, July 02, 2005

Spain, Gay Marriages and Constitutional Dilemmas

Today, the Gay Pride in Madrid will celebrate the new statute permitting gays and lesbian to marry (the act of parliament will be enforced starting from toomorrow).

Even if I join in the celebration for what looks like a victory for the homosexual community, I still have some reasons to doubt that the decision taken is not fully satisfactory.

Many arguments have been raised by the opponents to this statute. Most of them are spurious, but some should be taken more seriously in order to placate, and eventually eschew, the polarisation of the spanish society.

Spurious arguments include those pretendedly in favour of children's rights, and those that claim the existence of a natural right to marry exclusive to heterosexual couples. Firstly, children's rights do not command that their parents should be of a given sexual preference. The min virtue required for adopting is economic well-being and emotive stability. These two qualities may very well be present in homosexual couples and absent in heterosexual ones. What is more important from the point of view of adoptable children is that the bigger the number of potential (guaranteed) adopters, the better for them. Their 'choice' is between poverty and well-being, they don't really look at the sex of their parents.

Secondly, the argument based on the idea of a natural right is equally spurious. In a lay society, we are not bound by arguments such as 'God has imposed that a man should be with a woman.' Nor is there any reason to believe that science tells us that the only natural union is that between a man and a woman.

Having said that, some problems remain. It is safe to argue that historically in most of our societies marriages concerned the union of men and women. Marriage is a religious institutions, which the State has espoused in order to organize its society. Instead of extending marriage to all categories of person, a wise secular state should give up the control of the symbolic role of marriage, and leave it to the church. A healthy secular state should create a new lay institution (say a civil union, which regulates rights and duties) for all people, be them homosexual or heterosexual. Each couple could decide afterwords whether to have a religious ceremony. Of course, each church could decide whether to exclude a category of people accordingly to its own internal morality.

This way both State and Church would play their own regulative role, and they would do so keeping their own morality separate. The Church should not play the role of the State, but the State should not play the role of the Church either.

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