Thursday, June 24, 2010

Civil Partnership Bill

In a break from my usual lighthearted tone, I'll be writing about something serious today.

Ireland has a history of being notoriously backward when it comes to gay rights. For those of you outside Ireland (or possibly many of you inside it), when would you think the laws outlawing homosexual acts were struck down? It may shock you to learn that this did not happen until 1993.

Yep. 1993. The same laws under which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 were still in effect in Ireland almost 100 years later. It was only thanks to the efforts of people like Senator David Norris bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights that the laws were eventually struck down.

Now, almost 20 years later, things have come on somewhat - but not enough. Ireland is introducing a civil partnership bill which will give some rights such as that of inheritance to gay people. It is NOT on a par with marriage and there is no provision for gay couples to adopt children (or for the non-biological or non-official adopting single parent to have rights to the child he or she has helped bring up in the even of the death of the partner). However, it could be construed as a step in the right direction.

The bishops - those of the moral highground of perpetrating and covering up the sexual abuse of children for decades - don't like this. Some others are also against it - mostly the right-wing catholic (or other religious) brigade who tend to be against any challenge to the status quo.

Even allowing full gay marriage would not take anything away from heterosexual marriage.  I'm a woman, married to a man, and I don't feel like gay marriage would create any kind of threat to that. Marriage is when two people who love each other make a commitment to try to continue loving and supporting one another for the rest of their lives. Domestic violence is a threat to marriage. Emotional abuse is a threat to marriage. Infidelity is a threat to marriage. But other people getting married is not a threat to marriage.

If the church doesn't want to have a religious ceremony for gay couples who wish to commit to one another, fine. No one is suggesting they should. The state is a different story however. The church is subject to the laws of the state in which it operates, but the state is not and should not be subject to the laws of the churches operating in its jurisdiction under any circumstances. So butt out, bishops! Go get your own house in order and stay out of lawmaking.

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